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17/08/2009 07:02,
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The Manager's Column

Sir Alex pens his thoughts before every home game for United Review. Even after the event, it's essential viewing. Read it in full on ManUtd.com, the day after the game...

It’s a particular pleasure to welcome Birmingham City to Old Trafford for our opening Premier League game of the new season because at their helm is a man who served me admirably when I was manager of Aberdeen.

Alex McLeish was a lynch pin at the heart of our defence in a fantastic partnership with skipper Willie Miller. Alex was always a strong, confident character. I remember bringing him into my Aberdeen side when he was 19 to play centre midfield and he took it in his stride. He was resolute right through his playing career and he has never lost his fierce determination to succeed, a quality that he has now taken into management in English football as he brings his newly promoted team here today.

He has already experienced the ups and downs of the game, literally, after failing to keep Birmingham in the top flight two years ago but bringing them back up last season. He will need all his determination to keep them up because this is not an easy league, and it is getting harder with the explosion of transfer fees at the top inevitably dragging the price upwards at all levels.

Survival will be the name of the game for Birmingham, but their manager will have a better grasp of the situation after his experience at St Andrews. They will certainly pose a challenge for us with the adrenalin of promotion and new season expectations running high for them.

On top of that, clubs who may finish the season struggling can be difficult on the opening day as we know to our cost. We could only draw with the eventually relegated Newcastle at Old Trafford this time last year, and the season before saw Reading hold us to a draw on our own ground. So we have been warned, and while I wouldn’t say we were under any more pressure than usual, it would nevertheless be quite helpful if we could get away to a good start this season.

I know some of our supporters are still worried that I have not been out to buy a megastar to replace Cristiano Ronaldo. They are concerned because they can’t quite work out how we are going to compensate for all the goals Cristiano used to get for us. It’s also true that the competition will be even fiercer this season with Manchester City’s owners raising the bar in the transfer market, and while it is tempting to assume that bringing

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