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English Premiership

Fergie counting on late start

MANCHESTER, August 13 – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping his side's late start to the Premier League season against Newcastle on Monday will help their cause this season.United have had five players on international duty this week and the Old Trafford manager considers the extra rest his players will get before their Premier League opener as a blessing.

While title rivals Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool all play on either Saturday or Sunday, United’s game will be televised on Monday, allowing his squad the time to fully recover from any midweek exertions.

"The game being on Monday is a blessing for us in the sense that quite a few players have been travelling in the week," Ferguson said on Friday.

"Javier Hernandez has been in Mexico, Park Ji-Sung has been in South Korea, Rafael in the United States for Brazil, Jonny Evans in Montenegro and Nemanja Vidic in Serbia.

"They will train today of course but you are always wondering how they will come back and having to wait until Friday to see how they are for a Saturday game.

"But now it is a Monday it gives us a couple of extra days to prepare so it could be a blessing for us."

Ferguson knows the extra rest his players will be getting courtesy of the fixtures secretary is a bonus only if they take advantage by beating newly-promoted Newcastle.

He added: "The other way of looking at it is that all our major competitors could win on Saturday and Sunday, and you don’t want to start the season three points behind your rivals.

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"Last season we went to Burnley like that and lost and you’re always wary of a team that is promoted because their motivation is obvious."

Ferguson also oversaw the signing of little-known Portuguese forward Bebe during the week and spoke of his pride at beating several other clubs to his signature.

United pounced in a shock 7.4 million pounds (8.9 million euros) for the 20-year-old, who had only played a handful of games for his new side Vitoria Guimaraes.

Ferguson has put faith in his scouting networking and is confident they have got it right.

"He’s quick, two-footed and there is raw material there and other clubs were starting to hover so we made a quick decision," Ferguson said.

"I thought ‘why don’t we go for it?’. He’s young and we are good with young players here."

United’s opposition on Monday were comprehensive winners of the Championship last season as they proved to be too strong from the start to the finish of the season.

They returned to the Premier League at the first time of asking following their tumultuous relegation and Ferguson has nothing but praise for a club he grew used to having as a Premier League title rival in the mid-1990s.

"They have a great work ethic and their manager Chris Hughton should take great credit for that," he added.

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"He was not first choice to be manager but he has done a great job.

"He had to deal with all the financial constraints of last season and they sold a lot of players and created a bond with the players and they fought together.

"We will find on Monday that they will battle too. So it won’t be an easy first game.

"He had them all playing for him last season and they fought every game and it’s not easy to come straight back up.

"History proves that very few teams have done that over the years so you have to give them credit.

"I think they were probably in a better position because of Newcastle’s fantastic support, they take away as many fans as they are allowed and having that fanatical fanbase."

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