Coming up to his 25th campaign as Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson still remains the dogged fighter he always has been, combining the determination to win everything he can possibly win and possessing an unrelenting aspiration to continually better himself that rubs-off onto the players. SAF took time out from the pre-season tour in Seattle to speak to Sportsmail in what is quite an extended interview that covers topics such as how United are looking to replace Scholes, how he thinks Hernandez will do in the future and the growing capabilities of City. Anything that SAF says is always a good read so take the time to read the interview in full. Below are a few extract questions from the interview but to see it in whole, click here.
How do you view the new season and challenge ahead?
We’ve lost five experienced players who gave the club great service – Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville. At the time you look at it and think it’s a big slice out of the cake, but we have replaced them by bringing back Danny Welbeck (from Sunderland) and Tom Cleverley (from Wigan) and adding Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea which we think fills the gap. We’ve actually got 11 players aged 22 and under with us, so it could be an emerging team again. There are also some experienced players who are maturing and will carry the responsibility. Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand have responsible roles. So do Ryan Giggs, even though he is 37, Michael Carrick and Michael Owen. These are experienced players, and the young players will be desperate to get in their positions so I think it’s a healthy situation we’re in.
Roberto Mancini said he loved that you still celebrate a goal like you did 25 years ago. Does it still bring that same excitement to you?
Yes. Everybody is different when it comes to celebrating goals. It’s your emotion. Some people have different emotions to me. I’ve got a Scottish nature which tends to show. A lot of Scottish people do show their emotions, whereas I’ve seen managers when their side has scored a goal and they’re like, “Yeah, I expected that”.
Is the number of teams capable of challenging for the title getting bigger? City and Liverpool have spent and there’s always Arsenal?
Well, it’s quite simply this: one of that three has emerged really in the last couple of years. There was a period not so long ago when they were actually in the Second Division and they were never a thorn in our flesh, whereas every year we’ve had to contend with either Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool. Nothing changes, one of them will always be a thorn in our flesh. You can’t change history. Rather than isolating City, Liverpool or Arsenal, one of them will be a thorn in our flesh whether we like it or not.
Has Arsenal’s ability to challenge seemed to have faded a little?
That’s one way (of looking at it) but, honestly, you’ve got to remember the way that Jose arrived and Chelsea all of a sudden won their first six games in a row and we were all chasing our bloody tails. I think Arsenal got caught in the draught that Chelsea created. And of course not winning the title for six or seven years has put a pressure on them but it’s cyclical. The Barcelona team is a team of its time and it’s a cycle for them, a fantastic cycle. You can’t really see it changing for the next two or three years.
Does winning that 19th title but losing to Barca again mean Europe is the main target this season?
You have to combine the two. The Premier League is such a tribal confrontation between different parts of the country that you’re forced into trying to beat them all the time. You can’t get away from that. I’m sorry, you can’t. It’s not like athletics where you can programme yourself to win the one-mile at Oslo and then maybe wait until Stuttgart five months later to win there. We play every seven days so you’re forced to go for the league. I’ve got absolutely no doubt Real Madrid would give up anything to win the European Cup. I think AC Milan did that. They were concentrating on trying to equal Madrid with those nine European titles.
You can do it in these countries because the European Cup is the most important thing. But our mentality is different. I’ve got to try and show that we’re challenging for the league all the time, and hopefully have the bonus of winning the European Cup. We’ve only won it twice in my time so that shows it’s not easy to combine the two.
Scholes has said Wayne Rooney could fill his role. Do you agree?
Scholesy is being very generous there. He’s under-estimating himself and the value he had to us. Wayne could play centre midfield but not the way that Scholesy played it. They are too different. The way that Wayne would play as opposed to Scholesy is that he would be more dynamic and all over the place, using his energy to run everywhere, challenge and hit those crossfield passes that he’s terrific at. But Scholes was more calculated and he always had that control about him, controlling the speed and pace of a game, which is pretty difficult to do. He was an absolute one-off. You will never replace Scholes.