Alex Ferguson has called on his Manchester United players to put last season’s title triumph out of their minds when they square up to Arsenal in tomorrow’s FA Community Shield.
Ferguson saw his team memorably claw back an eight-point deficit on the Gunners in the final two months of the campaign and eventually cruise to their eighth Premier League championship with a game to spare.
The red rivals renew hostilities at the Millennium Stadium with their domestic duopoly threatened by big-spending Chelsea.
And Ferguson knows if there is any sign of his team resting on past glories, their supremacy will be in severe danger.
“Last season was great for this club,” he told MUTV.
“The run from December onwards was absolutely fantastic. I think we deserved the championship purely on our own form.
“But that counts for nothing now. Yesterday is yesterday and tomorrow is very important.”
It is a saying which captures Ferguson’s entire footballing ethos, and which has made him the most successful manager Britain has ever seen.
It is why he has shown the ruthlessness to rid his squad of both David Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron this summer, adding relative unknowns David Bellion, Eric Djemba Djemba and Tim Howard, with the promise of more to come.
Brazilian World Cup winner Klebersen will not be available tomorrow as his work permit application is not due to be heard until Monday, while Ferguson has admitted a new striker and a defender are still on his shopping list before the August 31 Champions League transfer deadline.
West Ham’s Jermain Defoe, Ajax’s Tunisian full-back Hatem Trabelsi and Barcelona centre-half Carlos Puyol have all been mentioned as potential United targets, although the Old Trafford chief hinted there may be a surprise or two.
“We are targeting one or two areas in terms of bringing players in, but not necessarily the ones who have been mentioned,” he said.
“You have to dismiss all that. We know what we are after.”
If pre-season results are any guide, Ferguson need not be in too much of a rush.
His side returned from their high-profile US tour with a 100% record and while Sporting Lisbon deservedly ended that run in Portugal on Wednesday, there were mitigating circumstances.
“It was one game too far,” admitted the United chief.
“We only arrived on Monday evening and some of the lads were waking up at 3am because of the jet lag. The heat was unbelievable as well and that showed in our performance.
“It didn’t spoil what went before though because we couldn’t have asked for any more from the American trip.
“Everything was first-class and we have our sharpness back now which will hopefully help us at the start of the season.”
Ferguson is vowing to treat tomorrow’s game more seriously than he has done in the past and most of his side selects itself.
The major dilemmas concern the goalkeeping spot – with Howard, Roy Carroll and Fabien Barthez all in contention – and who will play alongside Roy Keane in central midfield.
Nicky Butt is marginal favourite to win that battle, although Djemba Djemba impressed on his debut in Lisbon and looks to be an astute summer arrival from Nantes.
The opposition should also get the juices flowing and Ferguson again locks horns with Arsene Wenger, who despite making only two close-season signings because of the cash restrictions imposed on him by Arsenal’s impending move to Ashburton Grove, the United boss expects to be steering another title drive.
“I’m sure they would like to have bought, but they are lacking in funds at the moment because they have bought this new stadium,” observed Ferguson.
“It has put tremendous pressure on their club, although I still think they will be one of our biggest challengers.
“Tomorrow’s game might tell you much about who will eventually win it, but I’m sure it will be competitive – Manchester United matches against Arsenal usually are.”