Champions Chelsea were 15 points behind in March but can now leapfrog leaders United on goal difference with a win. Yet Ferguson said: “If we win, I think we should win the league. Our home record is fantastic, probably the best in Europe, and it has to be on Sunday.”
After the match at Old Trafford, each club will have two games left. United, who on Wednesday booked a Champions League final date with Barcelona at Wembley on 28 May, are unbeaten on their home ground since April 2010.
Having used a second-string XI to dispatch Schalke 4-1 6-1 on aggregate, Ferguson will recall players such as Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, club captain Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand for Chelsea’s visit.
Former United defender Gary Neville believes United’s first-choice players will have benefited from the rest.
“People thought it was a risk [to rest so many players] but this is why he [Ferguson] is a great manager,” Neville told BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek.
“He always thinks in advance. He will have a totally fresh side out there today.
“But I would never go into this game saying Manchester United are going to win. It can go either way Chelsea are a really good side with a good record against us.”
It was the Blues who imposed United’s last home defeat, a 2-1 victory enabling Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti and his team to overtake Ferguson’s at the top with five games to go as they went on to clinch the Premier League title.
And Chelsea’s win over United at Stamford Bridge in early March, when they came from a goal behind to win 2-1, provided the catalyst for their unlikely title comeback this season.
“They have the advantage but for us it is fantastic to think we can fight for the title,” Ancelotti stated. “Two months ago nobody thought we could do this. We have done really well and we are very happy.
“For us it is like a final. The shape of the team is not so important. What will win this game is the courage and personality of the players.”
Ferguson believes Chelsea were energised by their victory in March, and is aware that United’s loss to Arsenal last Sunday has further opened the door to the west Londoners.
“The result against us was the change for them,” he said.
“That gave them that lift from being out of the game to winning it. And, of course, us losing to Arsenal on Sunday is going to open the door for them.
“It’s a hard league to win, we know because we’ve been involved in championship races for almost 19 years.”
Chelsea edged past Tottenham 2-1 at Stamford Bridge last Saturday to stay in the hunt, and skipper John Terry has said that there is no reason why his team cannot repeat their success of last season.
“We showed when we went to Old Trafford and won last year, which was the decisive game, that we could do it. There is no reason why we cannot do it again,” Terry reflected.
“Each season you know you are going to hit a bad spell, and it is about how quickly you can get out of it. We got out of it very quickly last year, and have taken a little longer this time – but once again we are right back in the frame.
“There is nothing I want more than to bring back that trophy.”
Victory would put Ferguson’s men on the brink of the 19-title mark, one more than arch-rivals Liverpool.
That would effectively fulfil the Scot’s mission statement when he was appointed in 1986 of “knocking Liverpool off their perch”.
However, Neville does not believe Ferguson will be calling it a day any time soon.
When asked if he expected the 69-year-old manager to stay for at least three more years, Neville replied: “I wouldn’t see why not – people have been lulled into thinking he will be finishing but he has gently built a new side.
“Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez, Fabio and Rafael [da Silva] have all been superb this season. Before you know it next year you will see the evolution of a new United side. He has sort of done that behind people’s backs.
“The future is looking bright and he will keep going while his health is good.”