Sir Alex eyes December haul
The title race may not be won or lost in December but Sir Alex Ferguson has called on his players to deliver a message of intent this month and set up a New Year trophy assault.
December often fills managers with dread as winter bites and fixture and injury lists lengthen. It’s usually a month to be endured as much as enjoyed, although the Reds kicked things off this year with a 4-3 win at Reading containing more than enough thrills and spills.
The drama will no doubt continue with a visit to Manchester City on Sunday – after the final Champions League Group H game against CFR Cluj, of course. After that, the Reds welcome Sunderland to Old Trafford, then travel to Swansea before seeing out 2012 with home games against Newcastle and West Brom.
“It’s generally a good month for us,” Sir Alex says in the new issue of Inside United, out 5 December. “We usually get ourselves to the New Year in a challenging position, and that’s where you want to be. When you have the second half of the season in front of you, you know full well that pressure can affect everyone, there’s no question about that. We tend to do not too badly.
“The start of the month, with City away, is a hard one, but then we’ve got Sunderland, Reading, Swansea, West Brom – we’ve got a reasonable programme, so we should be expected to gather some points there.”
Preparation is key, as is managing the fitness and freshness of his players by making use of the squad. “I tend to sit down and plan that with Mick [Phelan] and Rene [Meulensteen],” added the boss. “But the aspects that they look at are different to what I look at. Their concentration tends to be on the game immediately ahead while I’ll have my eye a few more games ahead.”
Subsequently Sir Alex feels that it is a major plus heading into the busy festive period with defensive injury issues receding. “We’ve managed Rio Ferdinand very well. Rio is doing a lot of work throughout the week to get himself ready for games. If we can keep Chris Smalling and Phil Jones fit along with Rio and Jonny Evans – we’ll see how Nemanja Vidic gets on – we’ll have a far better chance.”