While many Manchester United fans would love nothing better than to secure a 19th Premier League title at the end of the upcoming season in order to break the record shared with bitter rivals Liverpool, manager Sir Alex Ferguson concedes that his main objective is to obtain a fourth European Champions League saying that “For me, during the history of this club, the European Cup is a big attraction. That must be a priority.”
Ferguson has little doubt that his side could and should have faced Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the Champions League final last May had luck been a little kinder in the aggregate defeat on away goals by Bayern Munich at the quarter final stage. It is therefore the possibility of correcting what he sees was a wrong that the ultra competitive Scot relishes more than any other.
It does not mean that Sir Alex does not also have a burning desire to regain the trophy removed from Old Trafford by Chelsea “When you lose the title by a point you do ask yourself where you lost the point that mattered” Ferguson admitted as he reflected on last season’s campaign “You could examine many games that way but you cannot help but go for the Premier League because it is such a tribalistic competition. Every game is so competitive with six or seven rivals so you cannot help but go for it.”
“My thoughts are not on the top four because we have to think about how we are going to win the league” he continued “you have to think that Chelsea, after winning it last season, are going to be favourites. That is what you normally think, that the team that won it last year you have to knock off their perch and they are in that position at the moment.”
Ferguson does not dismiss the looming challenge from cross town rivals Manchester City lightly as he’s convinced that their £100 million plus spending spree ensures that Roberto Mancini’s side “will have to challenge” for a Champions League place while he does not have the slightest doubt that Liverpool will improve under Roy Hodgson. It’s from another quarter however that Sir Alex sees the most unexpected threat.
“Everton have all their players back” he said “with players like Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka fit, they could be an interesting prospect. I expect the top four to be competitive again after Tottenham broke the monopoly of ourselves, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal last year.
On paper Manchester United has a comparatively straight forward start to their Premier League campaign with the visit of newly promoted Newcastle United on Monday night but Ferguson insists that promoted sides should never be underestimated and who can argue with him when one remembers the three costly points lost at Burnley in their second outing last season, points that ultimately cost a record breaking title win
Should Ferguson’s priority be a Premier or a Champions League title?