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The 71-year-old boss has backed his young side to continue their domination of the Premier League next season but would be wary of Chelsea should Jose Mourinho return to the Blues

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the champions elect’s youngsters and believes they can carry the Red Devils to Premier League glory next season.

Sir Alex’s side are 15 points clear at the top of the table ahead of their Monday night derby against Manchester City, with a win over Roberto Mancini’s side virtually guaranteeing a 20th top-flight crown.

The Scottish manager is already plotting next year’s assault on the title and has backed a core of young, ever-improving players to lead the charge.

"We've got a lot of youth in the team, there's no doubt about that," Ferguson told reporters.

"The record over the last 20 years tells you we're not going away. So I'd expect us without doubt to have a real good challenge next year.

"Plus we'll have players who are maturing nicely. Rafael [da Silva] has proved how much he's developed this season; the goalkeeper David de Gea's progress right through the season is absolutely superb and he'll get better next year.

"[Shinji] Kagawa will be a far better player next year, I'm certain about that.

"We have to deal with the fact that one or two players are getting older, but I think we're not so bad in terms of protecting most positions. So we're not going to go away, no doubt about that."

Ferguson admitted that he envisages a tough title battle next season, with City likely to invest over the summer, and pinpointed Chelsea as the Red Devils’ biggest threat – but only if Jose Mourinho rejoins the Blues.

"Whether we can go on another run of three titles in a row, who's to say? But the material's there, it's a hard league, as we all know," the 71-year-old continued.

"You'd expect, if Jose goes back to Chelsea, a big challenge there.

"[Manchester] City won't go away, with the money they've got. And I think Arsenal will improve – there's some indication that Arsenal are building a better squad than people think and Tottenham have been progressing for a couple of years now.

"So it's a hard league to win, there's no doubt about that. But at this moment in time we just need to concentrate on winning the league this year."

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