Sir Alex Ferguson has called on the current Manchester United side to embrace the prospect of playing against the big sides next season.
Jose Mourinho‘s men will take on Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup over an eight game pre-season period.
Their record against the top six last season was far from impressive, managing just two wins – against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at home – overall.
And Sir Alex, looking ahead to the next few months, expressed the importance of relishing the clashes with big sides.
“The great thing about United is you’ve got to accept the challenge of beating the best,” he said.
“The expectation is always there and the matches we’ll face in the ICC are all big ones.
“It’s very good for the younger players to come into this type of competition in terms of preparing to be a Manchester United player. The more intense the challenge they can get, the better prepared they will be when facing Manchester City in an important league match or Real Madrid or Barcelona in Europe.
“The preparation to play in games as big as that can be started in pre-season tournaments like the ICC, which is fantastic.”
It simply goes without saying that a challenge for the title is only possible if you sweep aside those around you, and United dramatically failed to do that last season.
No top six side managed to beat them at home, sure, but on the road Mourinho’s men mustered just one goal during trips to the Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Anfield, the Ethiad and White Hart Lane in the form of a Wayne Rooney consolidation strike against Spurs.
Mourinho’s approach to these big clashes is strongly defined by a refined form of pragmatism and picking the right moment – a formula that has worked wonderfully in the past – but you sense something extra will need to be invoked as he embarks on his second Premier League campaign at Old Trafford.