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14 Agustus 2008

John Terry: It's United who have peaked, not Chelsea

All those who relish the cut and thrust of the Barclays Premier League will be reassured to learn that, even at an event designed to promote better relations between players, managers and referees, John Terry could not resist the opportunity to stick the boot in. The Chelsea captain poured scorn on the repeated claims of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, that Chelsea have peaked, insisting instead that it is United who will struggle to replicate their stunning performances of last season.
Ferguson has said several times this summer that the Chelsea side are too old, incapable of further improvement and even compared them to the disintegrating Liverpool side of the late Eighties, insinuations that Terry gave short shrift. With a new World Cup-winning manager, top-class signings such as José Bosingwa and Deco and a harmonious dressing-room, Chelsea should be stronger this season, with Terry doubting whether the same can be said of United.
“Ferguson realises we weren't too far away from them at the very top of their game,” he said. “I don't think they've got another level to go to. They've had a lot of players in their team who have hit the peak of their form in the last two years. Rio [Ferdinand] has been awesome in the last two years. [Cristiano] Ronaldo's been unbelievable - I don't think we'll ever see that again. [Wayne] Rooney, [Carlos] Tévez, [Ryan] Giggs at his age - they've all been fantastic.
Terry, for all his confidence, acknowledged that Chelsea need to get off to a good start if they are to regain the title, as they did in leading from the front to win two championships under José Mourinho, in 2005 and 2006. United have been handed more difficult opening fixtures, with two of their first three away matches being at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea must take advantage.
“We need to get off to a flyer and keep winning,” Terry said. “Our start cost us the league last season, so we need to start well. Manchester United have a few tough games early on, Arsenal and Liverpool. They [Liverpool] have made some good signings and will be stronger this year. But we need to focus. We've got a good home record. If we can continue that and get off to a good start, we'll be all right this year.
“It hurt seeing them winning the trophy at Wigan. It's frustrating. I can sit here and give them credit, but it doesn't get any easier. We made that trophy ours when Mourinho first took over. We obviously want that back.”
Along with his United counterpart, Gary Neville, Terry was the most high-profile figure on duty at the Premier League's Get On With The Game campaign, an initiative intended to promote better understanding between players and officials. Terry's stature could rise farther if he is named England captain by Fabio Capello, the manager, before the friendly against the Czech Republic next Wednesday.
“Of course I want the England captaincy, I'd be mad to sit here and say no,” Terry said. “I've been awfully lucky to get the armband in the past and that's something that will never leave me. I'm sure whoever Mr Capello announces as the captain will have the best day of his life next week, whether it be myself, Rio, Stevie G or Lamps. The main thing is that England as a team move forward and the captain helps drag them together.”
David Moyes, the Everton manager, is likely to include Jose Baxter, the 16-year-old forward, in his squad to play Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. “Jose has a talent to define a game,” Steve Round, the assistant manager, said. “[But] it is wrong to compare him with Wayne Rooney. Wayne was a man, physically, when he was 16. He was much more advanced.”
Joey Barton is expected to admit to an FA charge of violent conduct over his training-ground assault on Ousmane Dabo, his former Manchester City team-mate. The Newcastle United midfield player has until today to request a personal hearing from the FA.