Alex Ferguson has told new Premier League champions Manchester City that a century of success separates them from Manchester United.
Ferguson was stunned by two late goals that earned City the title just when United were preparing to celebrate at the end of their 1-0 win at Sunderland.
The United manager congratulated their city rivals, but also sent a reminder they have a long way to go before they can be compared with his club.
“They can go on as much as they like — that’s what you would expect, but the history of our club stands us aside,” said Ferguson.
“We don’t need to worry about that. I think we have a rich history, better than anyone and it’ll take them a century to get to our level of history.”
For the United fans, the future matters more than their glorious past — and Ferguson left no doubt he intends to be the man who leads them into next season’s challenge against City.
“We accept challenges — we are good at that,” said Ferguson.
And Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill, who knows him well, added: “It will only increase his desire. I don’t think he would want this Manchester City team to become so dominant. He will do something about it.”
Ferguson, who has won the title on the final day of the season on three occasions, accepted this role reversal.
He said:“At the start of the season, if I remember correctly, I said 82 points would probably win the league this season and we are seven points ahead of that. But look, it doesn’t matter, we’ve lost the league.
“It is a cruel way to have the title ripped away, but I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my 25 years here.
“Today we nearly did it and I would like to say on behalf of Manchester United, congratulations to our neighbours. It’s a fantastic achievement. This is not an easy league — it’s the hardest league in the world — and anybody that wins it deserves it. Yes, there will be times when we can sit back and say we did this wrong, we did that wrong, but 89 points would have won the league most seasons.
“All we had to do was concentrate on our job and that’s what we did, but you are going to get certain types of reaction from the crowd.
“We knew five minutes extra time was being played at City. Our game had three minutes stoppage time and you don’t know what can happen in the extra two minutes, but they got that break and won the game.
“We should take credit because of the fact we had so many injuries and coped with them very well. We have some young players and they have now experienced what happened here today.
“Hopefully in seven or eight years they will be at Manchester United and the experience is good for them — even if it’s a bad one.
“They’re a good bunch of lads. The younger players will remember today because sometimes a bad experience is even better for you.
“When you’ve got a certain character and a good purpose about you, then you shouldn’t fear the future and I don’t think these lads will.”
O’Neill said: “The last couple of minutes of the game have taken me back a few years to the season at Celtic when we lost out on goal difference. It’s the most harrowing thought you can have.
“Wayne Rooney was playing the ball in the corner near the end and thinking they had won the game, so to hear the news coming through was unbelievable.
“Sir Alex might be coming into my room for a moment and got to say I’m dreading going in. He will be bitterly disappointed because this would have been a sensational year for him to win the championship.
“He’s got so many titles that he’s lost count, but he will be so disappointed about this one.”
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