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Title top OF Reds' list

ALEX FERGUSON has digested the loss of the Premier League to Manchester City and placed it in psychological context. Last season, he said, was a "disappointment", yet nothing his Manchester United teams have not recovered from before.

As United prepared for their first fixture of the 2012-13 campaign in Durban this evening, Ferguson compared the season's challenge to those he faced upon ceding the English title to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal in 1998 and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in 2005.

Then, Ferguson focused United's rehabilitation on reclaiming the Premier League. This season, the method is to be the same.

"We want to recover the title," said Ferguson. "That's an important part of the history of our club over the last 20 years - we either win the title or come second.

"You have to recover, as we've done many times, and that's our target this year. Priority No 1: to win the title back.

"I think if you look back over different periods of recovery, when Arsenal won the title from us in 1998 we went and won the treble the next year. So we accepted that challenge and did something about it.

"Then, when Chelsea came along and the first two years got off to real flyers in the league, we had to change our pre-season a little bit to make sure we got off to quick starts. And that allowed us to get the title back.

"That's happened three times in the last 14, 15 years.

"Recovery is so important and exactly the same applies this season. There's no difference."

Ferguson is paying special attention to how he will bolster his left-back options this season.

United have been linked with Everton's Leighton Baines for most of the summer, although, as yet, it is not believed they have made a bid for the 27-year-old.


Yet Ferguson's transfer policy in recent years does not suggest he would invest quite so much in a back-up to Patrice Evra.

And, ahead of tonight's game against AmaZulu, it appears that is exactly what the Red Devils boss is looking for following Fabio's loan move to QPR. "It is an area we're paying attention to," Ferguson said.

"In the last five years, Patrice has played an average of 45-50 games, which is phenomenal. I don't know if anybody else has achieved that.

"He's still a fit lad. He is a fighter and has the same drive and ambition.

"But because he is never injured the opportunities haven't been there for Fabio, who needs to play because he has enormous ability.

"With him at QPR for a year, we are a little bit short in that department."

Ireland U21 international star Robbie Brady will be given a first chance to impress, while England U19 star Tyler Blackett could also be involved at some stage. Yet Evra is fancied to be the man in possession by the time United open their Premier League campaign against Everton at Goodison Park.

Whether £30.75m record signing Dimitar Berbatov is still a team-mate then is open to question.


The Bulgarian is in South Africa but, with club and player accepting a move is the only way forward, his agent has urged AC Milan to make a move.

"Dimitar likes Serie A and would be happy to discuss a move (to AC Milan)," Emil Dantchev said.

Whether Berbatov ultimately stays or goes, the aim for United next term will be clear.

After losing the title to Manchester City in such agonising fashion, Ferguson wants it back.

"After the disappointment of last year, we want to recover the title," he said.

"We have to recover, as we've done many times.

"That's our target this year. Priority number one is to win the title back."