Keegan backs Fergie's men for final day glory

May 6, 2008

Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan has backed Manchester United to clinch the Premier League title despite seeing Chelsea take the race to the final day.

The Blues powered their way to a 2-0 victory at St James' Park to go level on points with the current leaders, who enjoy a far superior goal difference.

Chelsea will need to defeat Bolton at Stamford Bridge next weekend to stand any chance of overhauling United, but will then rely on Wigan to take something from Sir Alex Ferguson's men at the JJB Stadium.

Asked if Avram Grant's side would be worthy champions, Keegan said: 'Yes they would, definitely.

'I don't think they will be, but in any other season, apart from this one...

'You usually have one exceptional side - I think this year, you have got two, and one of them has got to lose.

'I think it will be Man United as champions. Cristiano Ronaldo has had such an outstanding season and that, along with the other great players they have just gives them the edge.

'Despite the [state of the JJB] pitch I can't see them going to Wigan and losing. If you asked Avram Grant, he will go more in hope than expectation that they will.'

Newcastle provided stubborn resistence - and would have taken a 29th-minute lead had John Terry not cleared Michael Owen's shot off the line - until Michael Ballack headed home Didier Drogba's 60th-minute cross to break the deadlock.

Even then, the Magpies might have snatched a point but Florent Malouda's late strike sealed a vital win for the visitors.

Keegan admitted Chelsea had made their greater quality tell in the end, and bemoaned the gap between the Premier League's haves and have-nots as he sets about the task of trying to close the gap next season.

He said: 'It's very, very exciting to finish fifth in the league for Newcastle.

'You would be mad in my position to say we can get into the top four next year.'

Keegan predicted the current top four will hold sway once again in 2008-09, and admitted the following pack an increasing trailing in their wake.

He said: 'You have got West Brom and Stoke coming up and it's tough for them as well.

'None of those managers are going to say what I said 12, 13 years ago: 'Watch out, Alex, we are after your title.'.

'If they do, they will think they have been drinking something.

'Even if someone gives you a barrow-load of money you have got to be honest and say you are not going to get the very best players.

'All the great players, the big players, the top players potentially, will go for where the honours are, and then if they don't make it there, they will drop down to a Newcastle or any of those other clubs.'