ALEX FERGUSON has confirmed a record 19th league title would be an important step in the history of Manchester United.
Ferguson is confident victory over Chelsea tomorrow will ensure his side finish top, even though they would require a further point from the final two games against Blackburn and Blackpool to complete the task. If they manage it, United would then overtake Liverpool as the most successful team in English club football.
As the score stood at 18-7 to the Merseysiders when Ferguson won the first of his championships in 1993, the Scot could allow himself a moment of satisfaction.
He does not quite assess the situation that way.
Instead, he feels the 19th title is a matter for United as a whole rather than the individuals who currently comprise it.
“Personally, it doesn’t mean anything at all,” he said.
“It’s more for the history of the club that it is important. It’s like with the European Cup. There is the history of Real Madrid and AC Milan and then there’s another bracket — Liverpool, Ajax and Bayern Munich.
“We should definitely be in there as well.”
When he arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 and famously declared an intention to “knock Liverpool off their perch”, Ferguson could scarcely have imagined his words might literally become reality in terms of championship glory.
It merely emphasises the dramatic change in fortunes the Red Devils have enjoyed given Ferguson had to end a 26-year drought before he set about cutting into Liverpool’s lead. “I didn’t envisage it at that time,” he said. “I couldn’t have envisaged being here that long anyway.
“The aim at the time was to match them and then be successful ourselves. I came to win that title. Once we won it the club took off.
“It has been an exceptional period of time but getting the first one was always going to be the target.”
As Ferguson knows only too well, there is no point spending much time thinking about it at present because if Chelsea won tomorrow, United would no longer be top of the table.
They would still have two games to try and turn a goal difference shoot-out back their way but after losing a 15-point lead, which they held heading into the Stamford Bridge meeting between the sides in March, it could be that they will be too traumatised to respond.
Little wonder Ferguson is putting so much store by what happens tomorrow, and giving no thought at all as to how all those points have been whittled away.
“It doesn’t matter what happened last Sunday, four Sundays ago, four months ago, four years ago,” he said.
“We are where we are.
“We have three games left. We are three points ahead with same goal difference. We are playing at home. Nothing can change it.”
Ferguson can console himself with the knowledge that at Old Trafford United have dropped just two points — to West Brom in October — all season.
“Our home record is probably the best in Europe,” said Ferguson.
“Maybe because our away record has been ordinary, the players have felt the need to step up to the mark at home.
“People still criticise us for not being great this season but we have scored more goals than anyone else, so we must be doing something right.”
Ferguson hardly needed to explain an intention to select virtually the same side that recorded back-to-back Champions League quarter-final victories against Carlo Ancelotti’s men last month.
There might be a couple of minor alterations, with a delicate decision to be made about whether Nani or in-form Antonio Valencia begins as an orthodox wide-man, but with Darren Fletcher not deemed fit enough to be included after his recent virus, the template will not change.
“We did very well in the Champions League games when we picked a team that was suited to the occasion,” said Ferguson.
“I can make one or two small changes of personnel without making much of a difference and there is a chance I will do that on Sunday.
“But I don’t feel that will be of a detriment to the team.”
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