Fergie hopes to get timing just right
IT WAS fitting that Manchester United should sign a sponsorship deal with a Swiss watchmaker yesterday as Sir Alex Ferguson talked of the precision timing of their title bid.
A renowned stickler for timekeeping, Ferguson admits United must steel themselves to play a patient, seasonlong game of catch-up in the championship race.
But he does not care if his team go through the entire campaign without topping the table providing they finish, like clockwork, in pole position on May 24 to complete a hat-trick of championships.
United are eight points behind Liverpool with a home game in hand against Fulham. But they have had to postpone a second home game, against Wigan on December 20, when they will be in Tokyo for the FIFA World Club Championship.
That means they could be going into the new year with a doublefigure points margin to make up. But Ferguson insists he has the depth and quality in his squad to last the marathon and reel in the leaders.
“It’s going to be one of those seasons when we have to be prepared for not being top for quite a while,” he said on the day United struck a £10million, three-year partnership deal with watchmakers Hublot. “But that’s not a problem for me. Absolutely no problem.
“There will be certain obstacles in our way this season, notably the two games we have to make up, but we’ve got the squad and the ability to get back among the teams in front of us.
“We have a lot of experience in our squad. We’ve added Dimitar Berbatov which should give us even more opportunities to make sure we’re able to change and stay fresh.”
In 2006-07 United hit the top of the table in early October and stayed there to the end. Last season they were never out of the top two from mid-September, eventually overhauling stuttering long-time leaders Arsenal in mid-March. But this season they are entering November yet to break into the top four thanks to a sluggish start. And with dates for their two postponed games yet to be found they are facing a long pursuit, unless Liverpool and Chelsea stumble.
Ferguson, however, is unfazed and will draw on his experience of 10 Premier League titles, some won by coming from behind, others won from the front.
“Continuity and consistency of performance will be very important, particularly up to January,” he said. “If we can get to January and we’re still in touch near the top, particularly with these games we have to make up and having to go to Japan, then we have a great chance.
“If you look at our fixtures we will have played away to all the top eight or nine teams from last season before Christmas. We’ve already played Portsmouth, Liverpool, Chelsea, Blackburn and Everton away and have Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham coming up. That means we’ve got all of them at Old Trafford in the second half of the season.”
The 2-0 win over West Ham means United are now unbeaten in their past 10 games in all competitions with Ferguson adding: “We are in good form at the moment, picking up all the time after a slow opening to the season, which I have to say did not surprise me because I knew there were reasons why we were not operating on full throttle.
“After what we experienced last season, going flat out to the end to win two trophies, there was inevitably a lot of exhaustion, with most players carrying knocks and needing repair jobs. And that was apart from the obviously injured players who needed operations like Cristiano Ronaldo and Ji-Sung Park.”
FERGUSON: Playing catch-up