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Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 12:55 UK

Ruud Gullit on Chelsea v Man Utd

Ruud Gullit, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo
Gullit has been impressed by Deco but says Ronaldo is still the best in Europe

By Simon Austin

For once, it is Chelsea and not Manchester United who are being billed as the irresistible attacking force ahead of the meeting of the sides on Sunday.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side are top of the Barclays Premier League and have earned acclaim in the last week for the manner in which they demolished Manchester City and Bordeaux.

In contrast, United languish in 14th and have not managed more than a goal in any of their six matches so far.

Interview: Former Chelsea boss Ruud Gullit

Defeat at Stamford Bridge would see the champions fall nine points behind Chelsea and also represent their worst start to a Premier League season.

Yet Chelsea are not as far ahead of United as the statistics seem to suggest, according to Ruud Gullit and Gary Pallister.

Gullit, who coined the phrase "sexy football", says little of Chelsea's play has set his pulse racing so far.

"Everyone says they've really made a change in their style, but the only game when they were really good was against Bordeaux," Gullit, the Chelsea boss from 1996 to 1998, says.

"I went to the league game against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea didn't play well at all. They are a great team, but a team in transition."

He does, however, believe that Chelsea are stronger than they were last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the most complete player in Europe - show me another player with his attributes

Ruud Gullit

"Deco is a great addition and Jose Bosingwa gives a new dimension to their attacking play," he says.

Pallister, who won four Premier League titles in his nine seasons at Old Trafford, thinks Sunday's game has the ingredients to rouse United from their slumber.

He says Sir Alex Ferguson, who always demands that his side match their opponents for effort and intensity, will have been furious that they were "hustled out of the game" by Liverpool last Saturday.

"That took everyone by surprise, because Liverpool knocked United out of their stride," he says.

"To put it mildly, the manager will have mentioned this to the players and demanded a response from them against Chelsea.

"The manager is acutely aware that United got off to slow, sluggish starts in Jose Mourinho's first two seasons at Chelsea and weren't able to catch up after that.

"Sir Alex will be hammering this home to his players - they can't let a nine-point gap open."

United will have the added incentive of trying to end Chelsea's unbeaten home record, which stretches back to February 2004, and Pallister expects Cristiano Ronaldo to provide a further lift by starting for the first time this season.

Gary Pallister and Ruud Gullit
Pallister (left) expects United to go up a gear on Sunday

Gullit describes Ronaldo, who has been out with an ankle injury, as "the most complete player in European football".

"Cristiano has incredible speed, skill and trickery, strength, heading ability and scored 42 goals last season," he says. "Show me another player with those attributes."

United's poor start has raised questions about the extent to which they will miss Carlos Queiroz following his departure to become Portugal boss in the summer.

Queiroz had more influence at United than his title of assistant manager might suggest. Ryan Giggs wrote in his autobiography: "He'd train us, prepare us for games, organise the team and decide the things we needed to work on. The gaffer immediately entrusted him with large amounts of responsibility."

What Paul Scholes brings to a game is priceless

Gary Pallister

Pallister believes Mike Phelan will prove himself a more than adequate replacement though.

The pair roomed together as players at Old Trafford and Pallister says: "I know the players have got the upmost respect for Mike and enjoy his methods.

"He makes the training ground an enjoyable place to be, much as Brian Kidd did when I was at the club, which is crucial."

The former centre-half also bristles at suggestions that Paul Scholes' powers are on the wane.

Scholes was superb in the first 20 minutes against Liverpool as United dominated, before his influence subsided.

"I've got no fears about Paul Scholes, because his quality is there for everyone to see," Pallister says.".

606: DEBATE
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"What he brings to a game is priceless - vision, fantastic technical ability and the ability to set the tempo amid all the hustle and bustle of a game."

This is Scolari's first encounter with Ferguson in English football, a fact which "won't faze him at all", according to Gullit.

The Brazilian was given the twin objectives of winning and playing with style when he was recruited in the summer.

Although Gullit isn't yet convinced this is being achieved, he believes it can be if Scolari is given time.

"A coach must adjust to the players he has and, at a club like Chelsea, get results," he says.

"Scolari has just arrived at Chelsea and only bought a couple of players. If he is shown time and patience he can give Mr Abramovich the team he wants."


see also
Chelsea v Man Utd
18 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Ferguson will relish Chelsea clash
19 Sep 08 |  Football
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day


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