Sir Alex Ferguson believes new Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has made a promising start to his Stamford Bridge career.

Villas-Boas faces his biggest test so far on Sunday when the Londoners head north to Old Trafford looking to emulate their performance in April 2010, since when Manchester United have dropped just two points in 23 home league games.

At 33, the former Porto coach is the youngest manager in the top flight, less than half the age of Ferguson, who will be 70 on New Year's Eve.

It was envisaged Villas-Boas may encounter problems imposing his authority on a dressing room full of high-profile stars.

However, so far, he has coped well, although Ferguson feels it is what happens from this point forward that will determine whether he makes a success of the job.

"There are similarities to the time when I came down from Aberdeen," he reflected.

"I had achieved some things at Aberdeen. That helped me.

"It is the same for Villas-Boas. He won the double last year with Porto and also the Europa League.

"That achievement will stand him in good stead in terms of the start to his tenure at Chelsea.

"After that, the impression the players will get from him, in terms of his knowledge of the game and his man-management skills, is all in the future.

"He has had a good start though."

One issue it does seem Villas-Boas will have to deal with at some point is the matter of older players in his squad.

Most of Chelsea's more established stars are now over 30, a point Fernando Torres made in rather blunt fashion with the interview he posted on his own website earlier this week.

The arrival of Juan Mata from Valencia and the introduction of Daniel Sturridge to the Blues starting line-up has given them a fresher feel.

But John Terry and Frank Lampard are both expected to be recalled at the weekend, giving Chelsea a very familiar look once more.

Not that Ferguson necessarily views that as a bad thing.

After all, last season he claimed a record 19th title thanks to a squad bulging with experience.

"You can only approach the identification of players when they get older from their abilities on the pitch," he said.

"Ryan Giggs keeps surprising everyone. He scored on Wednesday night, 17 years after he scored his first goal in Europe.

"You can retain your hunger. There are other good examples with Paul Scholes last season, Gary Neville kept coming back even with all his injuries. Edwin van der Sar was fantastic despite being almost 41.

"By looking after yourself and having the will to do it, you can have a long career.

"But all the evidence is on the field. There is no other way to assess it."

Other than Rio Ferdinand, who was rested, Danny Welbeck is the nearest of Ferguson's presently injured stars to returning and he won't recover from his hamstring problem until next Saturday's trip to Stoke at the earliest.

Plenty of changes are anticipated though, with the majority of those left out of Wednesday's draw with Benfica set to return.

United will start favourites, partly due to their record-breaking form in domestic combat so far, where four wins have yielded a 100 per cent return of 12 points, plus 18 goals, including eight for Wayne Rooney, who has bagged two hat-tricks on the trot.

Given Manchester City have only been marginally less impressive, it is little surprise the two halves of a divided city are being talked about as having the entire championship between them.

Ferguson has been around far too long to be duped by such talk.

And he knows the same applies to Chelsea.

"They will be there at the end of the season, there is no doubt about that," he said.

"At the moment, of course, the two Manchester teams are enjoying the publicity that comes from the predictions that they are going to be involved in the winning of the league.

"In the background lurks Chelsea. They don't need the publicity. They will be enjoying being out of the profile at the moment."

Chelsea had enjoyed the better of recent confrontations between the teams until last season, when United recovered from losing the opening meeting between the teams to win three on the trot in just over a month, including both legs of a Champions League quarter-final.

"It will be a fantastic game," Ferguson said.

"The games between both sides over the last seven years have been very close affairs.

"There is usually just one goal in it and it will be very tight on Sunday again."