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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 15:15 GMT
Alan Hansen's column
Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Jose Mourinho
Mourinho talks like Chelsea's blip is over - it isn't until they start winning matches again

Jose Mourinho has tried to lift Chelsea's spirits by claiming Manchester United have failed to take advantage of their blip by only building a six-point Premiership lead.

It's a tried and trusted piece of psychology - but two important points need to be noted in what is becoming an enthralling title race.

There is only one place you want to be in the Premiership, and that is at the summit, especially with a good points cushion, and the team in that position is Manchester United.

And secondly, Mourinho talks as if Chelsea's blip is over. He is wrong. It is only over when they start winning Premiership matches again.

Anyone who says you are better off chasing in the championship is talking rubbish. You are better having the points on the board.

Chelsea will be so much better for the return of John Terry, who is a brilliant defender and leader of men, as well as goalkeeper Petr Cech and Arjen Robben.

The goalkeeping position is key. Hilario is no Carlo Cudicini and Carlo Cudicini is no Peter Cech.

Aston Villa's best chance against Chelsea came when Hilario missed a corner, and if they don't get Cech back soon those six points could become nine or 12 and Mourinho will have a serious problem.

Manchester United are looking 100 times better than they did in March and April of last season and everything suggests they will be delighted with the way they are playing and the position they are in.

I think what happens in a couple of weeks, when Chelsea visit Liverpool and Manchester United go to Arsenal in the space of 24 hours, will have a huge bearing on shaping the table.

I have to say Chelsea's decision to swap William Gallas for Ashley Cole does not look good business at the moment.

I'm not saying for one moment that Cole is not going to be a tremendous acquisition for Chelsea, but there is no doubt in my mind that Gallas is a better defender - he is world class.

And for all Ricardo Carvalho's excellent performances, I still felt Terry and Gallas was Chelsea's best central defensive partnership.

Sir Alex Ferguson
There is only one place you want to be in the Premiership table - and that's where Sir Alex Ferguson is

Chelsea are also struggling to retain the ball up front. Andriy Shevchenko is trying like you wouldn't believe, but looks off the pace, and Michael Ballack, who is a brilliant player, is not doing enough.

Salomon Kalou also gives the ball away, so Chelsea are not controlling games as they once were. In fact Reading and Fulham were taking the game to them in the closing stages at Stamford Bridge.

I would say the title race is 50-50, but no matter what Mourinho says, United are in pole position.

He may be saying in public that United's six-point lead represents some sort of missed opportunity after Chelsea's recent struggles, but he won't want to give them too much more leeway.

United have not had injuries or any sort of blip - but who can say for certain if they will have injuries or a blip?

Chelsea need to start winning games to prove the blip is over - and the philosophy has to be the same at the other end of the table for West Ham.

Their performance in the 6-0 defeat at Reading was nothing short of a disgrace, but I still fancy them to escape relegation with the players they have at their disposal.

When I saw how they played against Manchester United in Alan Curbishley's first game in charge, I said that even if they lost 3-0 I didn't feel there was any way they would go down because of their attitude and approach.

People are talking about players earning big money or driving nice cars and criticising them for that.

But it is not about that, it is about personal pride and working hard. This is what they must do now - I do not believe for one minute that defeat at Reading didn't hurt them.

The only people who can get West Ham out of trouble are the players, and I actually have no doubt they are good enough.

But if they go down there can be no hard luck stories.

It is all down to the individuals concerned, and I still believe they can escape if they start to play to their capabilities.

There is only one answer to the current dilemmas facing Chelsea and West Ham and it is the one that can cure most ills of any team - namely winning football matches.

SEE ALSO
Benayoun fires relegation warning
03 Jan 07 |  West Ham Utd


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