Manchester United will continue to compete with their neighbours, the newly crowned champions, Manchester City, and will do so with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm "for many more years".
That was the confident message from the club's chief executive David Gill yesterday as, with ironic timing, the Premier League recognised United's domination of the competition's 20-year history just as their supremacy is being challenged.
In the aftermath of Manchester City claiming their first title in 44 years, Ferguson has conceded that United's rivals, with their petrodollar backing, can outbid his club by paying "stupid money" and "silly salaries". But Gill insisted that United's commercial power would enable them to match City on the pitch.
"We can compete because our revenues are in the top three in world football and they are growing significantly in commercial and media areas," Gill said. "We can invest in players, transfers and contracts. We are a very attractive club, we pay good wages, we also have all the assets of being Manchester United that can get players in, whether it be Alex Ferguson with his record, playing with Ryan Giggs, or our history and heritage. Manchester United can and will attract some of the best players in world football, of that there is no doubt."
Despite growing revenues since the Glazer takeover in 2005, United have been relatively small net spenders in the market, preferring to buy developing players for fees approaching £20m rather than elite performers at £30m-plus. This summer is likely to see more recruits in that mould, such as Nicolas Gaitan, of Benfica, and Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa, but Gill stressed there was no great need to spend heavily.
"We were only two or three minutes from retaining the title; we came second but we got 89 points," he said. "We clearly have a great set of players. We will only bring in players Alex believes will improve us. There are additions we are looking at in certain areas, but we are not going to buy players just for the sake of it. We're already looking forward to next season. I'm confident; I always am with this manager."
Ferguson, who opted not to attend a function that had been arranged near Euston station, presumably to facilitate his appearance, was, said Gill, in his Carrington office at 7.30am on Monday as usual, despite United's despair after their final match at Sunderland the previous evening.
"He lives for the game," said Gill, who collected on Ferguson's behalf the award for being the best manager of the Premier League era. "The hunger and enthusiasm is there day in, day out. He's on a rolling contact and with his enthusiasm, the way he delegates, the support of his staff, there'll be many more years, I'm sure."
Giggs, who has played under Ferguson for every one of the 20 Premier League seasons, was voted the competition's best player. "As long as I'm enjoying it and still getting picked, I'll carry on," said Giggs, 38.