To Old Trafford legend Sir Bobby Charlton the challenge is simple “It is crucial that United reassert their dominance in the Premier League, anything other than the championship trophy will be failure” he says as if his demand is the easiest thing in the world to achieve. And the 1966 World Cup winner is confident that United would have learned from the mistakes which may have been made last season.
His words could have inspired the team in Dublin as a League of Ireland selection was ruthlessly swept aside in United’s final pre season 7-1 demolition. That smashing victory in which Ji-Sung Park twice, Owen, Hernandez, Valencia, Evans and Nani got the goals was obviously far too comfortable to read much into. But United will be justified in believing that with the strike force Sir Alex Ferguson has available, there will be more of the same in the season ahead.
It must have given Sir Bobby plenty of encouragement as he watched the Irish blitzkrieg. “We’ve got younger players” he said “but what makes me feel good is that a lot of the younger players are that little bit better this year. I think we will have a really good go at winning the championship again. The plan is always to try to win the league, it’s the hardest thing to do” he conceded “if you do that, no one can argue when you say you’re the best.”
Charlton was forced to watch as Chelsea nicked the title by one point in the title race last season then went on to complete the double by winning the FA Cup. It has left United playing catch up in its bid to win a record 19th title, an objective which will be made all the more difficult as neighbours Manchester City throws the cash around as if there’s no tomorrow in a bid to surpass its cross town rivals.
Ferguson has taken the opposite path by putting his faith in the latest generation of youngsters emerging from the famous youth system at Old Trafford. Together with defender Chris Smalling, Mexican international Javier Hernandez is one of only two signings made by Sir Alex so far but Charlton has no doubt that together with Federico Macheda, the Da Silva twins, midfielder Darron Gibson and French winger Gabriel Obertan amongst others, there will be enough strength in depth available for a successful season.
“Second best is not good enough and it never has been” Sir Bobby insisted “we have so many matches, we play an unbelievable amount of matches at high intensity as well, but that’s not an excuse. Last year we were a couple of points short and Alex is well aware of that.”
Despite an abnormal run of injuries in the first half of last season, the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez did not appear to affect a serious title challenge until United’s strength in depth was ultimately found wanting when Wayne Rooney’s ankle injury at the end of March saw their Champions League and Premiership aspirations hit a brick wall.
Charlton is convinced that United’s youth system can reproduce the success of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and the Neville brothers by forming the nucleus of title winning sides for many years to come. There will not be many who will argue with his conclusion that “we will have a really good go at winning the championship again.”
Is Sir Bobby Charlton being too optimistic about United’s title chances?