Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has backed the USA to do well at next month's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ finals in South Africa - once they have played England.
The United States open their Group C campaign against Fabio Capello's England in Rustenburg on 12 June before playing Slovenia and Algeria, and while Ferguson believes the Americans could go a long way in the tournament, he added that he is not expecting them to start their run to the latter stages until after their first game.
"In the group they're in with England and Algeria, it's not beyond them to qualify," Ferguson said during a press conference in New York to publicise Manchester United's summer tour to North America. "England will be very, very motivated under Capello. Capello is a really outstanding coach.
If [the US] can survive after that in terms of the next two matches, they have a very good chance at qualifying. In fact, I think they will qualify.
"Of course, he has some issues what his team is going to be to start with, but they will be difficult to beat. If [the US] can survive after that in terms of the next two matches, they have a very good chance at qualifying. In fact, I think they will qualify," he said.
Ferguson, whose side will face a Major League Soccer All-Star team in Houston, Texas, on 28 July as part of a four-game tour through Canada and the US, pointed to Fulham's Clint Dempsey and MLS 2009 player of the year Landon Donovan as the players to watch in Bob Bradley's squad.
"You know, they've proved themselves in previous World Cups. Donovan, Dempsey, have some experience of being there before," he said. "I don't think they're going to be overwhelmed with the atmosphere of the World Cup, the importance of the World Cup, the intensity. I think that will be easy for them. I think they'll be used to that. Those players have that, Donovan, Dempsey. Dempsey has had a great season in England this year. They are very athletic, they apply themselves very well, and are difficult to play against."
Backing Henry in the MLS
Ferguson also tipped former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry to be a great success in MLS should the France striker's expected transfer from Barcelona to the New York Red Bulls be completed.
"He was an outstanding footballer with Arsenal," the Manchester United manager said. "He was the best player. He had incredible speed and his goal scoring was exceptional. When he moved to Barcelona, that continued, although I think that Barcelona's team, as it's proved now in the last year or two, he found it difficult on that team.
"What you're getting with Thierry Henry is enormous experience and presence. I would not say he's deteriorated by any means. He's still a very competent player. He doesn't have the brilliant pace he had five years ago, but he's still quick and he's experienced. I think that when players get older, they know how to use speed better, their timing is better. I think he'll be a success here, I have no doubt in my mind about that," he also said.