Fergie wary of Gunners
Sir Alex Ferguson claims Arsenal's young stars are serious rivals for Manchester United's Premiership crown and Arsene Wenger's league leaders must be taken seriously this season.
United manager Ferguson takes his team to Aston Villa on Saturday bidding to keep within touching distance of unbeaten Arsenal, who have made a hugely impressive start to the campaign, despite the summer exit of Thierry Henry.
Arsenal have displayed breathtaking football and a menacing goal threat with a team of young players including Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Brazilian youngster Denilson.
And Ferguson admits that Arsene Wenger's mixture of youth and experience is far too dangerous for United to write off as they go in search of their tenth Premiership title.
Ferguson said: "The title race is still open, but Arsenal have made a great start and you can't deny that.
"And in Arsene Wenger they have a manager who has been there before and they also have the players who done it as well. Kolo Toure and Gilberto Silva know how to win the title, so the inexperience of some of their younger players won't be a handicap.
"Some of the youngsters haven't experienced it before, but the same could be said of some of our players last year and we led the Premiership for three-quarters of a season. We have missed players this season through injury, but we have got on with it and won games, so everything is coming together well."
United travel to Villa Park having had seven players away on international duty in midweek, with several suffering disappointing results that either ended or left their qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
England pair Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand endured the 2-1 defeat against Russia in Moscow that has severely dented their country's hopes of reaching Euro 2008, but Ferguson insists his players are capable of quickly shrugging off the disappointment.
He said: "I haven't spoken to any of the England players because I have plenty on my plate getting the team ready for the Villa game. The great thing about football is that you always have the next game to get over it and, if it comes quickly, then even better.
"England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland all had disappointing results in midweek, but the lads are grown men and they can get over it.
"I actually thought that Wayne Rooney was England's best player in Moscow, he played really well. The penalty he gave away was simply down to his eagerness to help the team. He didn't haul the player down. The Russian boy took advantage and it was outside the box.
"Wayne's goal was tremendous, though, and hopefully he is back on one of his runs now."