Michael Carrick believes Manchester United must raise the bar in order to win one of the most wide open title races in Barclays Premier League history.
Having claimed the championship at something of a canter last season, the champions are obviously favourites to retain the crown but will undoubtedly face stiff opposition from rivals Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as perennial outsiders Arsenal and the much-improved Tottenham Hotspurs.
Of course, the 2013/14 campaign is also something of an unknown quantity as a result of last season’s top three all hiring new managers in the form of our own David Moyes at Old Trafford, Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium and Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.
And speaking during Friday’s press conference in Australia, five-time title winner Carrick was keen to acknowledge the difficulty of the task at hand when asked if this is the most open race ever.
“That’s a tough question," Michael said. “Every year there's fresh optimism around the league and people want it to be the most exciting league ever. In the end, over the last few years, similar teams have been up there. With us, Manchester City and Chelsea changing managers there's a different feel about it.
“They're all strong squads and the best teams come to the top. We believe we'll be right up there but it’s certainly going to be tough. There are probably five or six teams now that fancy their chances for the title or the top two or three. We'll have to be as good, if not better than ever.”
In preparation for the big kick-off, United are currently completing a rigorous week-long training camp in Sydney as part of the Tour 2013 presented