Ferguson: Now bring on Man City and Liverpool

+ MANCHESTER’S DOUBLE JOY ++ MANCHESTER’S DOUBLE JOY ++ MANCHESTER’S DOUBLE JOY +

MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson insists claiming a record-breaking 19th top-flight title will not diminish his hunger to see off another round of challengers.

Saturday’s draw at Blackburn saw United clinch the Premier League with a game to spare and Ferguson achieve his long-term ambition of surpassing Liverpool’s haul of 18 first division trophies.

His closest rivals next season might well be from nearer by than in recent years, with Manchester City and Liverpool re-emerging as major contenders to usurp London duo Chelsea and Arsenal.

But Ferguson said: “I will not be taking it easy because we have won the title. The ambition of the club doesn’t alter. It doesn’t go away. That is the responsibility as manager of Manchester United.

“You always expect Liverpool to challenge us. You always expect Manchester City to challenge us. The great thing about us is that we accept challenges. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Our job is to get better and we will try to be better next year.”

Ferguson famously remarked in 2002 that one of his key tasks at United was to “knock Liverpool off their perch”. While he now disputes that comment, he makes no attempt to hide his satisfaction at achieving that.

“I don’t know if I actually said that, but it was their time in the 1980s. It is our time now,” he added. “You couldn’t imagine we would have turned this around when I started. At that point I was looking just to get one trophy. Since then, it opened the door for us.

“We won the double the next year with a great team and got carried along in terms of always challenging for the title. That is 19 years we have been competing for the league. Only three times have we been outside the top two. That is an incredible achievement.”

With the title in the bag, Ferguson is looking to end the season with a third Champions League triumph when United face Barcelona at Wembley later this month.

“We can enjoy the final now,” he said. “Let’s hope we lift the European Cup.”

2012 FA Cup final in 5:15pm kick-off
FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION chairman David Bernstein has confirmed next year’s FA Cup final is likely to kick-off at 5:15pm, but wants talks with the Premier League about avoiding another clash. The FA came in for fierce criticism over the scheduling of this year’s final, but Bernstein said: “I think the Premier League was diminished somewhat by the cup final, not the other way round. I will have a constructive conversation with them about it.” Bernstein said fans and broadcasters both wanted a 5:15pm kick-off because it was “a very good time in terms of people being at home”.

RECORD | MOST LEAGUE TITLES
19 Man Utd

18 Liverpool

13 Arsenal

9 Everton

7 Aston Villa