Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Beware Citeh! Fergie's warpath target is the title

There's no one better at setting and achieving goals than Sir Alex Ferguson. Whether Manchester United win trophies or not, you can guarantee Fergie resets his ambitions to square one every August. It's the only viable explanation for the club's astonishing consistency in retaining or reclaiming silverware.

Fergie's first Premier League title in 1993
And the 70-year-old's challenged his squad to reclaim the title after City pipped them on goal difference last term; "We have to recover, as we've done many times. That's our target this year."

And when the Govanator insists recapturing the Premier League title is his "number one priority", the noisy neighbours had better sit up and pay attention:

Every time United have finished runners-up under Fergie, they've gone on to reclaim the prize next time - and then some! In 1996, they claimed the double, in 1999, it was the treble plus 2007 and 2011.

United will be strengthened by the return from injury of Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic, akin to a new top-level signing.

United's midfield looked distinctly light-touch compared to previous incarnations. So weak last season, it's underperformance encouraged Fergie to tempt Paul Scholes out of retirement, as Ryan Giggs continued to deliver at 37. With Ji-Sung Park transferred and Darren Fletcher's ulcerative colitis ruling him out for an unspecified timespan, Fergie (rather like the unfortunate Fletcher) has begun reconstruction in the middle.

Nick Powell's arrived from Crewe Alexandra and Japan international Shinji Kagawa's been signed from Borussia Dortmund.
Fergie's new midfield: adding numbers to experience.
City will be under considerable pressure on two fronts this year: having set the bar at title-winning level, their squad of millionaires will be expected to finish top again while at the same time, fairing much, much better in the Champions League.

Perhaps pivotal in the title race is the unknown variable of a player's future: of a man who doesn't even play for either of the Mancunian protagonists. 

Robin Van Persie's recent refusal to put pen to paper on a new Arsenal contract's ignited an almighty scramble for his services: a battle which Fergie claims he's won. Time will tell whether the Dutchman will pick United over City, who are willing to pay him more and Juventus, who are touting a completely new challenge in Serie A.

United actually finished their last season top when the final whistle blew at Sunderland; but that was minutes before City's last-gasp come-from-behind win at home to QPR.

But if City are favourites with the bookies at the start, perhaps the clever money's on United to wrest control of the coveted trophy come May next year.

It's hard to deny Fergie's extraordinary hunger for success and achievement.