Fergie eyes on the prize

Forget all the talk of records, Alex Ferguson would be satisfied if Manchester United won the title with a deflection off someone’s backside.

Speaking to a US radio station earlier this week, Ferguson suggested United’s target for the remaining nine games was to match the Premier League points record of 95, amassed by Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in 2005.

With a 15-point lead over nearest challengers Manchester City, it seemed prudent of Ferguson to find additional challenges beyond merely lifting a record 20th title.

Yet, ahead of today’s trip to Sunderland, the United boss dismissed his own lofty talk.

In the final analysis, all he cares about is winning the prize he has almost made his own for the past two decades, but which was snatched away from him with virtually the last kick of last season.

“I don’t care what I win it by,” said Ferguson. “It could be a dodgy goal off someone’s backside in the last minute of the last game of the season.

“It doesn’t bother me one bit. Winning the league is the issue.”

As they prepare to visit the Stadium of Light for the first time since they stood by the side on the pitch, their own season over, to discover Sergio Aguero had sent City into ecstasy, Ferguson can have no complaints at how his players have responded.

With just two draws and three defeats, United have been virtually foot-perfect, far too good for a City side who struggled to regain their previously high standards.

“These things are hard to take,” said Ferguson. “For about 20 seconds we thought we had won it and it was snatched away from us.

“But what we have done well this season is dusted ourselves down and made a real good challenge of the league.

“The concentration levels, the commitment of the players and the team spirit have been fantastic. In that respect we have answered the only way we can.”

The anger Ferguson felt at the Sunderland fans’ over-the-top celebrations has evidently subsided, meaning there is no talk of revenge as United look to claim three of the 13 points required from their nine remaining fixtures to clinch title number 20.

“I don’t have any issues with the Sunderland fans,” he said. “I don’t think Sunderland fans wanted Manchester City to win it any more than we did.

“It goes back to modern society. You see it from supporters every week. In a corner, wherever your supporters are, the opposing fans vent their spleen at each other.

“That is what happens in modern-day football.”

Ferguson is confident Rio Ferdinand will not be affected by any abuse from the stands as a result of his England withdrawal.

Anti-racism campaigners FARE have reported the FA to Fifa over the behaviour of England’s fans in San Marino last Friday.

Specifically, it was felt by FARE that the ‘bonfire’ song, adapted to include the names of Ferdinand and his brother Anton, warranted further attention from the game’s authorities.

The FA have so far failed to unearth any evidence of the song being sung, while not challenging that it happened, and have repeated their desire to stamp racism out of the game.

That may not prevent Ferdinand being targeted on United duty though, given the controversy that surrounded his England withdrawal and subsequent trip to Qatar to commentate on the match.

Yet the United manager feels the 34-year-old is strong enough to cope.

“If there is criticism out there I don’t think it will bother him,” said Ferguson.

“In modern society there is always a venting of spleen against someone who displeases them at any particular moment in time.”


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