October. We couldn’t play catch up with them – we never got near them.
“So we changed our programme in pre-season and made sure we started the season correctly. In that third season we did that and we won the league.
“That’s the great thing about this club. We can accept challenges and we don’t run from them. We move on and we always try and improve where we think it’s necessary. In the main, I think we should take great credit for that.
“This season we’ve responded to [City’s challenge] by adding van Persie and Kagawa. Kagawa is on his way back [from injury] now, but van Persie has been unbelievable. He’s scored 13 goals already. His intelligence and maturity definitely bring an improvement to the attacking side of our game.”
Despite losing out to City at the final hurdle last season, Sir Alex insists that disappointment won’t fuel emotions in Sunday’s derby.
“I’ve never entered into the revenge stuff – it doesn’t work,” he said. “At this club you can’t enjoy losing to anyone. Let’s be straight about that point.
“The consequence of losing a game here is always huge. We’re either front page or back page and when we lose we’re front page. You get used to that part but you still don’t like losing, no matter who it’s to.”