Ferguson rues Mourinho exit, still wary of Chelsea threat

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MANCHESTER, Sep 21 (Reuters) Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson believes Jose Mourinho's shock departure from Chelsea will be a loss to the Premier League.

Mourinho was due to take Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday but Ferguson will not be locking horns with his great rival.

''It is a disappointment for the game. He was terrific for football and terrific for Chelsea,'' Ferguson told a news conference.

''I enjoyed the competition with him. He was something fresh and new to our game. I don't know what I will do with my wine now. I wish him well.'' United wrested the Premier League title back from Chelsea last season following back-to-back championships for the London club under Mourinho.

The intense rivalry between Ferguson and Mourinho often prompted verbal jousts but there was also a high level of mutual respect.

''He's been fantastic, he has enjoyed unparalleled success without question,'' Ferguson added.

Ferguson said Mourinho's departure did not mean United would get it any easier against Chelsea at the weekend.

''We are still playing Chelsea and still the same players, and that in itself is a challenge for us. It's always a difficult match,'' he said.

''If you look at the record between us over the last three or four years there is nothing in it. There are very few goals scored and they are always very tight games.'' United and Chelsea are level on 11 points with six games played.

After a slow start to the season United have won their last three league games, as well as starting their Champions League campaign with a mid-week win at Sporting Lisbon.

''Four 1-0 victories are not what we are renowned for but nonetheless they are victories. They have given us a good platform,'' Ferguson added.

Ferguson is encouraged by the return to fitness of Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha but England internationals Owen Hargreaves and Gary Neville will be missing due to injury.

REUTERS BJR RN1600

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