Sir Alex Ferguson will demand that his players earn a better record against fellow members of the top flight’s top four this term, starting with Arsenal on Saturday.
United won the title last year specifically due to a ruthless record of 70 points taken from a possible 72 against teams in the bottom 12 positions of the league. Results against the top eight were less flattering, and points dropped against teams inside the so-called top four were much to Sir Alex’s chagrin.
The Reds lost twice to Liverpool, drew and lost with Arsenal, and beat and drew with Chelsea en route to Barclays Premier League success in 2008/09. With that in mind, Sir Alex is placing even greater emphasis on victory over Arsenal this weekend.
“With 35 games left, you can’t say that this game will be decisive,” he told reporters at his weekly press conference. “But what means a lot to us is that last season against the top teams we dropped six points to Liverpool, five to Arsenal and two to Chelsea. We really need to address that and do better in these games. One opportunity comes along on Saturday and I hope we take it.”
These matches are perhaps no longer the fire and brimstone clashes of old, with warriors like Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira captaining their respective troops in battle. There is reason to suggest both teams are more sophisticated, and there has certainly been a thawing of relations between Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger.
Some have suggested that is because Arsenal have not realistically challenged United for the title in recent years. But their early season results suggest that could change this term. “Their start to the season has been the highlight of the early games,” admits the boss. “Beating Everton 6-1 was an amazing result. I can’t recall anybody scoring six goals at Everton in my time here.
“It’s been a good start for them, and then they got four goals against Portsmouth. I went to their game on Wednesday against Celtic and I thought they were comfortable enough, although Celtic made a fist of it.
“So we've got a tough game on our hands and we have to get our form right. Consistency is important and we have already lost one game and we can’t afford to lose another one this early on.”
With Arsenal at least showing the early murmurings of title contention, Sir Alex expects there to be an added bit of