Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted it will be far harder for Manchester United to land the treble this season than it was in 1999.
United still have the chance to emulate their historic achievements of 12 seasons ago, even though they must overcome Chelsea in the Champions League, Manchester City in the FA Cup and stay top of the Premier League.
But it is not Ferguson’s opponents that bother him so much as the mounting injuries he is having to contend with. “It is going to be more difficult than it was in 1999,” he said. “We didn’t have the injuries we do now. There is a great desire to do it but we have so many injuries to defenders at present. We will never give in, though. No matter what happens, you always feel Manchester United will score in the last minute. We must have a chance but it is more difficult than it has ever been.”
Ferguson was speaking at a press conference to announce United’s game with the MLS All-Stars team at the Red Bull Arena on 27 July, part of a five-match US tour that will conclude in Washington three days later with the Red Devils to face Barcelona.
A meeting with Pep Guardiola’s men in the Champions League this season is something Ferguson would relish. “Hopefully, they have reached their peak already,” he added. “They are an example to everyone of how to play football. Xavi and Andres Iniesta show so much courage to always want to take the ball and they have the little magician Lionel Messi up front, who is wonderful to watch. People say they don’t want to play against them. It is a privilege. It is the kind of challenge you want.”
Ferguson has criticised the staging of both FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, and predicted “absolute chaos” over the semi-final weekend next month. All four teams left are from the North-west: Ferguson’s Manchester United, Manchester City, Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers. He said this caused logistical difficulties and that the matches should not be held in London.
United will play Manchester rivals City at Wembley on 16 April, while Bolton play Stoke there the following day. Liverpool also go to Arsenal on the same afternoon as the second semi-final, while the London Marathon takes place the same day.
“Just think about this one issue,” Ferguson told Inside United, “which is important: there’ll be 60,000 people coming down from Manchester – you think about how much petrol is used for that. This is one issue alone. Think of the amount of people from the North-west driving away down there. Stoke fans, Bolton fans, City fans, United fans – and on the same weekend Liverpool fans are travelling down [to play Arsenal]. And you’ve also got people coming down to see the London Marathon. It’s going to be absolute chaos.”