London: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has delivered a dismissive assessment of Chelsea`s FA Cup pedigree by saying that their four successes in six seasons is due to Manchester United`s quarter-final opponents not having "one hard game" in the early rounds of recent campaigns.
Ferguson is expected to restore Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Javier Hernandez to the starting line-up on Monday after resting the trio for the 1-0 victory at Sunderland on Saturday.
Premier League leaders United must overcome FA Cup holders Chelsea in Monday`s replay at Stamford Bridge to maintain hopes of a domestic double and a clash with neighbours Manchester City in the semi-final on April 14.
Having allowed Chelsea to claw back a 2-0 deficit at Old Trafford last month in order to force a replay, Ferguson accepts that United face a difficult opponent. But the United manager says his team will not be affected by Chelsea`s ability to succeed in the Cup in recent years.
Ferguson`s claims over Chelsea`s ‘easy’ run to the semi-finals appears to have some credibility, with the Stamford Bridge club being drawn against lower league opponents on 19 occasions out of 26 draws between the third and sixth rounds of the competition, dating back to the 2006-07 season.
There have been 14 home draws in that run, plus draws against Premier League opponents in United, Southampton, Queens Park Rangers, Everton (who defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2010-11), Stoke, Wigan and Tottenham.
In contrast, United, who have not won the FA Cup since 2004, have faced top-flight opponents in each of their last seven ties outside semi-finals.
Ferguson admits that fatigue played a decisive factor in United`s failure to hold on to their lead against Chelsea in the first game at Old Trafford.