The Manchester United players arrived back home from Japan last night with body-clocks confused but purpose clear having sealed the Fifa Club World Cup title without losing too much ground in the title race. Rio Ferdinand promised that from now on the Premier League would "see the real Manchester United" as they resume their pursuit.
United may have come home to the unfamiliar sight of Aston Villa sitting one place ahead of them in the League but they are in possession of the title of world champions, a dubious honour that seems to have galvanised the players nonetheless. Having beaten Liga Da Quito 1-0 in Yokohama on Sunday, Ferdinand was moved to proclaim the last 12 months as his "greatest year" as a footballer.
It demonstrates just what United have won – back-to-back league titles, the Champions League and now the Club World Cup – that Ferdinand can put aside the humiliation of England failing to qualify for Euro 2008 which he has previously described as one of his worst experiences. United resume their league progress on Friday with a visit to Stoke City.
"Without question, this has been my greatest year as a professional footballer," Ferdinand said. "To win the Champions League, the Premier League and now the Club World Cup is something very special. Now we want to keep on winning. We haven't started the year as well as we would have liked, so I hope this can be the kick-start that we need."