Sir Alex Ferguson insists he relishes Manchester City’s challenge to Manchester United’s dominance of English football.
The Blues may have won the league on goal difference last term, but the Reds pushed them all the way – right up to the season’s final climactic seconds. Indeed, United have been heavily involved in each title race since the Premier League began 20 seasons ago.
In that time, challengers have come and gone. The latest (and, perhaps, strongest) are United’s nearest rivals geographically, a club Sir Alex famously referred to as the Reds’ “noisy neighbours” in September 2009.
“They’re screaming now!” he joked at his press conference ahead of Sunday’s 164th Manchester derby.
“Challenges are what we’re made of. I’ve been lucky that, in my time here, I’ve been involved with great competitions against individual teams: Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and now City. It’s fantastic. There are no dull moments.”
City’s challenge only began in earnest in 2008, when Sheikh Mansour bought the club. Some reports suggest he’s since injected more than £1billion into the club.
“Chelsea did [a similar thing, when Roman Abramovich took over] it and we recognised it immediately.
“What they did well was start seasons quickly. They had almost gone by the time we got to 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.