NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Ferguson predicts the United States will reach the second round of the World Cup.
The Manchester United manager said the U.S. will find the opener against England and coach Fabio Capello to be difficult. But he said that if the Americans can maintain their composure after that against Slovenia and Algeria, they should reach the knockout phase.
"It's a hard game for them to start with, because England are very, very motivated under Capello. Capello is a really outstanding coach," he said. "If they can survive after that ... I think they will qualify."
He praised Landon Donovan who spent part of last season on loan to Everton, where he was teammates with former Manchester United goalkeeper Tim Howard. He also singled out Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey.
"They've proved themselves in previous World Cups. With Donovan and Dempsey, they've got some experience. They've been there before. It's not as if it's new to them," he said. "So I don't think they will be overawed by anything, or the atmosphere of the World Cup or the importance of the World Cup or the intensity. I think that will be easy for them."
He called Donovan's time with Everton "absolutely outstanding" and said Dempsey "has had a great season in England this year."
Ferguson did think Premier League players will have a harder time at the tournament because they're exhausted after the long season, which for many included high-pressure matches in the Champions League and the Europa League.
That's why he'll give Manchester United players at the World Cup four weeks off after their national teams finish playing. That means Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Nani, Park Ji-sung and Michael Carrick are likely to miss much or all of the North American tour.
It includes games against Glasgow Celtic (July 16 at Toronto), at the Philadelphia Union (July 21) and at the Kansas City Wizards (July 25), plus the MLS All-Star game at Houston (July 28).
"The players we have in the World Cup have to get 28 days rest. They must have that or they won't feature next year," he said. "They'll just collapse. Exhaustion will get them. Which makes it difficult for English players to perform well in the World Cup, because the intensity of the English game is so great."
He will make an exception for Mexican forward Javier Hernandez, who is transferring to Manchester United for Chivas. Hernandez will join the team in Philadelphia and is slated to play in the last game of the tour, at Chivas on July 30 in the club's new 45,000-seat stadium in Guadalajara.
Ferguson said Hernandez, who turns 22 next month, must get to know his new teammates.
"He's young and I think can handle coming to training," he said.