As Manchester United prepare to try to break their club record for an unbeaten run, Sir Alex Ferguson has said he believes that 84 points will be enough for a record 19th league title.
Should United avoid losing at Wolverhampton Wanderers this evening, they will take their sequence of league games without defeat past the 29 achieved by another of Ferguson’s sides, between December 1998 and October 1999. That was the Treble side and they won the Premier League with 79 points, although Ferguson reckons that five more will be required this time.
“It is about getting enough points to get over that line,” the United manager said. “I think 84 points would definitely win it. I am almost sure of that, so we have 30 to find.”
Only once in the past nine seasons would 84 points have been enough to secure the Premier League – that was when United took their seventh title under Ferguson in 2003, with 83 points. The Scot argues that the advent of José Mourinho transformed the competition from the cliched “marathon” to what Mourinho called “a long-distance sprint”.
This season, however, results have been more volatile. Consistency, Ferguson said, was now the key for a side whose last league defeat was in April last year when Chelsea all but won the title at Old Trafford. “It has been very good in the last couple of months,” he said. “That’s the thing that gives them the extra yard or the extra sense of belief in situations we have found ourselves in over the last couple of weeks. They trust each other and they look around the dressing room and see some good pros there.
“They see professionals who have been round the course many times before and we are going to need that in the run-in. We have some interesting games towards the end of the season and we have a little lead that can vanish overnight. Our job is to retain the consistency and relish what we are going to experience.”
One of the “situations” on which Ferguson dwelled was the 3-2 victory at Blackpool last month, where they had found themselves 2-0 down at the interval after what he described as a “shocking, terrible” half of football. It was that ability to recover their balance on the edge of a precipice that marked out the Treble?winning side.
“The character of this team has been well established,” he said. “Of course, we have young players throughout the club but the main body of players has been here a long time. They know there are some games where you have to find a solution. That has always been important to the club; it is recognised we never give in. It’s a great quality and I think their perseverance has got better as they have got older.”
Manchester United plan a testimonial for Gary Neville to mark his retirement after 602 games for the club. Ferguson, who has long admired Bayern Munich’s ability to retain their leading players in administrative roles, will offer him a coaching or ambassadorial position.