Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic is confident lessons have been learned in the wake of last season’s harrowing title loss to bitter rivals Manchester City.
United were pipped at the death by two goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero in the dying minutes of the final match as Roberto Mancini’s side came from behind to beat QPR 3-2.
Vidic, forced to look on from the sidelines as he recovered from a cruciate ligament injury, is now ready to lead a more resolute United back into battle this campaign.
“We had some young players play a lot of games last season and they’ll have learned a lot. We all learned,” said Vidic.
“In Europe we’ve had so much success in recent years – we’ve had three finals, a semi-final – and maybe we relaxed a bit last season.
“We were punished and we can’t allow that to happen again. We had a few injuries last season too. I hope everyone can stay fit this season.
“The young players can learn from last year, so I’m confident we’ll be better this year.”
After eight months out recovering from his injury nightmare Vidic finally returned to action for United in Sunday’s goalless draw with Norwegian outfit Valerenga.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side now move on to a high-profile encounter with Barcelona in Gothenburg tomorrow, with Vidic insisting such a game is vital ahead of the season-opener with Everton on August 20.
Speaking to manutd.com, Vidic added: “You want hard games during pre-season. We want to be prepared as best we can for the first game against Everton.
“I think it’s important to have tough games before the beginning of the season and hopefully one of those will be Barcelona – actually, I know one of those will be Barcelona.
“But I think both us and Barcelona are concerned more with fitness and playing good football at this time of the season than we are with winning.
“Everything we’re doing is geared towards being ready for the start of the new season.
“For me, it was really good to have 60 minutes in Oslo. Hopefully I’ll play even longer against Barcelona and I should be fit for the beginning of the season.”
After playing two matches to help England reach the Euro 2012 quarter finals where they suffered another agonising penalty shoot-out defeat, this time to Italy, Wayne Rooney is relishing the prospect of a clash with Barcelona ahead of the new campaign.
Rooney said: “It’s great to play in big games and Barcelona is one of them.
“It’s all part of our preparation and we need to make sure we do the right things. We want to enjoy the game and get our fitness ready for the first game of the season.
“The result, in some ways, isn’t the most important thing. What’s important is the fitness and the sharpness.”
With regard to his own fitness after returning for the game with Valerenga, Rooney added: “ I’m happy with how I’m doing.
“I’ve been training for almost two weeks and I’ve been working hard. Everything’s going well so far. I feel good.
“Everybody needs games to get up to match fitness, not just me.
“I’m training well, though, and I’m looking forward to the next few games. Hopefully, by the start of the season, I’ll be ready to play.”
Ferguson returns to manage the squad for the game after missing the match with Valerenga as he was on other club business.
Patrice Evra has also rejoined the squad having flown home on Sunday to be with his wife for the birth of their second child.