Sir Alex Ferguson believes the 2013/14 Premier League will be a much closer battle than the present campaign. The Scot believes Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and local rivals Manchester City will strengthen their squads in the summer market but expects his side to remain competitive.
United are 15 points clear of City in the table and comfortably en route to a 20th championship; they could even beat the Blues' haul of 95 points from 2004/05. And the club have already confirmed one signing for the summer: Crystal Palace youngster Wilfried Zaha will join Old Trafford and add to a number of young players being groomed for future first team roles.
"We've got a lot of youth in the team, there's no doubt about that. The record over the last 20 years tells you we're not going away. So I'd expect us without doubt to have a real good challenge next year," Ferguson explained.
Meanwhile, Ferguson also spoke about the possibility of renewing a weekly rivalry with Portuguese manager José Mourinho; the Real Madrid boss has been linked with a return to Stamford Bridge. The Scot thinks his arrival will have a positive impact on Chelsea's fortunes. He also cautioned his club's fans against underestimating Arsenal's first team and Manchester City's financial strength.
"You'd expect - if Jose goes back to Chelsea - a big challenge there. Manchester City won't go away, with the money they've got. And I think Arsenal will improve - there's some indication that Arsenal are building a better squad than people think and Tottenham have been progressing for a couple of years now," he said.
The Manchester clubs will face off in the derby, at Old Trafford on Monday night, with the chance, for Ferguson and his men, to extend an already commanding lead over Roberto Mancini's squad. Should they lose, however, the gap will come down to 12 points but with only seven games left in the season it is highly unlikely United will crumble for two seasons in a row; they surrendered an eight point lead to lose the title to City last year.