Alex Ferguson: Taking title back from Manchester City is top priority for Manchester United this season
Sir Alex Ferguson has digested the loss of the Premier League to Manchester City and placed it in psychological context. Last season, he said, was a "disappointment", yet nothing his Manchester United teams have not recovered from before.
As United prepared for their first fixture of the 2012-13 campaign in Durban this evening, Ferguson compared the season's challenge to those he faced upon ceding the English title to Arsène Wenger's Arsenal in 1998 and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in 2005. Then, Ferguson focused United's rehabilitation on reclaiming the Premier League. This season, the method is to be the same.
"We want to recover the title," said Ferguson. "That's an important part of the history of our club over the last 20 years – we either win the title or come second. You have to recover, as we've done many times, and that's our target this year. Priority No 1: to win the title back.
"I think if you look back over different periods of recovery, when Arsenal won the title from us in 1998 we went and won the treble the next year. So we accepted that challenge and did something about it.
"Then, when Chelsea came along and the first two years got off to real flyers in the league, we had to change our pre-season a little bit to make sure we got off to quick starts. And that allowed us to get the title back. That's happened three times in the last 14, 15 years. Recovery is so important and exactly the same applies this season. There's no difference."
It may be no coincidence that United are in South Africa to play Amazulu FC tonight and Ajax Cape Town on Saturday. Ferguson smiled knowingly when the tour promoter pointed out that United's three previous pre-season visits to the country were all followed by Premier League titles.
The first fixture has been organised to celebrate Nelson Mandela Day, and will feature a half-strength United squad – without the players who featured at Euro 2012 – and the rehabilitating defenders Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Johnny Evans.
Ferguson promised to start all his experienced tourists against Amazulu with the notable exception of Dimitar Berbatov, who this week stated that it would be "better for everyone" if he was allowed to leave Old Trafford. New signing Shinji Kagawa will start in attack with Javier Hernandez in the Bulgarian's stead.
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