United goalkeeper Foster gets Ferguson's vote of confidence

LONDON — Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will persevere with Ben Foster despite the goalkeeper's error-strewn start to the season.

The England international's gaffe led to Manchester City's first goal at Old Trafford last weekend before the defending Premier League champions eventually beat their neighbour 4-3.

Despite Tomasz Kuszczak keeping a clean sheet in the League Cup victory over Wolverhampton on Wednesday, Ferguson will have Foster start at Stoke on Saturday and remain his first-choice Premier League goalkeeper while Edwin van der Sar recovers from injury.

"Edwin is still three weeks away," Ferguson said Friday. "It was a good opportunity for Tomasz to play on Wednesday, but Ben will start against Stoke. He's not had a lot of game experience but he'll be OK."

The Red Devils are second in the standings after six matches, three points behind Chelsea, thanks to Michael Owen's stoppage time winner over City.

Ryan Giggs created each of United's four goals to show that he remains a key component in the team at 35.

"The horrible part of being a footballer is that at some stage you are finished with the game," Ferguson said. "It catches us all. When someone like Ryan is playing at the level he is at, he realizes to stay there, he has to prepare himself in the right way.

"He has to look after himself and do the right things. It is not a matter of him defying his age. It is more a case that there is no discernible deterioration in his game at all. It is remarkable."

Chelsea may be protecting a 100 per cent record at Wigan on Saturday, but manager Carlo Ancelotti knows it won't last forever.

"It's very difficult because now the team is doing very well," Ancelotti said Friday. "We have maintained a good control of the injury situation and we have players in good condition and there is a good atmosphere.

"But in football in my experience it's very easy to pass from good to bad situations. It's very difficult to win and maintain a good situation."

Winger Florent Malouda has attributed Chelsea winning six straight games to the play of strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

"If you are an opponent and you see Didier and Nicolas are playing against you, you won't feel comfortable," Malouda said. "When they are confident, there is danger all the time for the opposition. And it helps us if the other team focuses too much on those two players as it will create space for the others.

"We have a strong midfield so when you have the pace of Nicolas with the power of Didier, it's good."

Meanwhile both Andrei Arshavin and Theo Walcott should return for Arsenal which plays at Fulham in Saturday's late kickoff.

Arshavin has missed four matches with a groin problem, while Walcott has not played this season due to a side strain as the Gunners have lost twice and fallen nine points behind Chelsea.

"We are very pleased because Arshavin gives us an attacking option that is always very interesting and away from home he's always very efficient as well," manager Arsene Wenger said. "He's a guy who turns up at the right moment and can always create chances or score himself."

Third-placed Liverpool missed out on the title last season in part because of its seven home draws, one of which was against newcomer Hull, which is back at Anfield on Saturday.

"We had difficulties last season with all the draws but now we are able to score goals in the first half," striker Dirk Kuyt said. "It's really important to score as early as possible because then it will be more difficult for them and easier for us.

"Hull are a good team as well but we have to look at our own strengths and we must believe we can beat them."

Level with Liverpool on 12 points are Manchester City, which hosts West Ham on Monday, Aston Villa, which is at Blackburn on Saturday, and Tottenham, which hosts Burnley at the same time.

In Saturday's other matches: Portsmouth, searching for its first point of the season, hosts Everton and Bolton is at Birmingham.

In Sunday's only match, Sunderland hosts Wolverhampton.

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