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Page last updated at 09:00 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Ferdinand dismisses Arsenal hopes

Rio Ferdinand
Manchester United were beaten 2-1 at Arsenal in November

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has written off Arsenal's chances of mounting a challenge for the Premier League title this season.

Ferdinand, 30, believes reigning champions United will face a three-way battle with Chelsea and Liverpool.

"I presume us, Chelsea and Liverpool will start pulling away a bit after Christmas," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It's not beyond them (Arsenal), it's just my personal opinion that it will be between us three this season."

Arsenal are eight points adrift of leaders Liverpool, seven behind Chelsea and two off United, having lost five and drawn three of their opening 17 games.

The Gunners, who are also a point behind Aston Villa, drew 1-1 at Middlesbrough on Saturday, while Liverpool drew with Hull at Anfield, Chelsea with West Ham at Stamford Bridge and United away to Tottenham.

United lie six points off the summit in third place but will have two games in hand by the time they return from the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side contest a semi-final against Gamba Osaka in Yokohama on Thursday in an attempt to reach Sunday's final.

United's next Premier League match is at Stoke on Boxing Day.

"We'll be looking and seeing what's going on (this weekend)," said Ferdinand.

"Last weekend we were disappointed, especially after our game, but when you look back on it you can take it that we came out of it better than anyone else because we drew away and the other teams drew at home.

"We can take some comfort from that but it would have been nice to have got the three points, we would have been sitting a lot prettier than we are now.

"It looks like teams will drop points. Hull going to Anfield and getting a draw is a massive result for them. Who would have said that before the season kicked off?

"West Ham getting a draw at Chelsea was a surprise as well. There have been quite a few unusual results this season but I am sure it is good for the fans."

The former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira insists his old club can win trophies this season but that they must find a consistency that has so far eluded them this term.

There's a long way to go and I'm sure they'll be up there fighting for the title - they are capable of winning trophies this season

Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira

"It will be hard but I don't write them off," said the Frenchman. "If they can find a way to perform together week after week they can fight for the title.

"I was expecting them to be a little bit better than what they're doing. I expected them to be closer to first place so it's disappointing so far.

"But there's a long way to go and I'm sure they'll be up there fighting for the title at the end of the season. They are capable of winning trophies this season."

Vieira, 32, believes the sale of key players last summer has been to Arsenal's detriment, but he feels the young replacements should be given more time to prove themselves.

"You need to keep your best players," he said. "Last year they lost (Mathieu) Flamini, Gilberto Silva, (Alexander) Hleb and Philippe Senderos, which is too many and they were important players the year before.

"Now you look at the average age of the squad and you need to be patient. They are young and need time to perform game after game."

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see also
Ferguson condemns 39th game plan
16 Dec 08 |  Man Utd
Manchester United big in Japan
16 Dec 08 |  Man Utd
Tottenham 0-0 Man Utd
13 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Middlesbrough 1-1 Arsenal
13 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Liverpool 2-2 Hull City
13 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 1-1 West Ham
14 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Aston Villa 4-2 Bolton
13 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Defiant Wenger rejects exit talk
08 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Impatient fans disappoint Wenger
23 Oct 08 |  Arsenal

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