YOKOHAMA—A day after arriving in Japan to take part in the Club World Cup, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson spoke to reporters on a range of subjects, from the team’s preparations to the Premier League’s controversial idea of holding a 39th round of matches outside of England.
While Ferguson and his yawning retinue looked a little worse for wear after the 12-hour journey, the Scotsman was nevertheless in a jovial and talkative mood:
Q: What is your impression of this tournament Bandar Judi Qq compared to the former Toyota Intercontinental Cup, which you won in 1999 by defeating Palmeras?
A: We were the first British team to win (the Toyota Cup) in 1999, and we took great pleasure in it. It can be a great boost in prestige and that’s why we want to win it again this year.
It’s a very difficult tournament and there are many good teams here. Our game against Gamba Osaka I think will be a very good game.
It’s our first time in such a tournament. When we were here in 1999 against Palmeiras it was a one off. That’s why I want to pick the right time for the first match because we very much want to play in the final.
We played the Urawa Reds twice in friendlies and we found them difficult because they were very energetic and technically sound.
Clubs in Japan have made tremendous improvements in technical and organization ability. And their stadia are fantastic thanks to the World Cup. It’s a young country in terms of football, but it’s an up-and-coming country. They have made terrific improvements.
I expect a very tough game on Thursday and it will hopefully be one we can navigate properly.
Q: What is your assessment of semifinal opponent and Asian champions Gamba, and what is the status of your squad at present?
A: I watched a video this morning of their game against Adelaide and we have a good idea of their game. It’s always better to watch a competitive match like that rather than something with nothing on the line.
(Goalkeeper) Ben Foster broke his finger on Thursday in training. But I brought a full squad of 23 and that’s why we watch our opponents so closely–so we pick the right team. I can always pick the wrong team, but I hope not to.
Q: There are many in the media who claim this tournament is a hindrance at this time of year. Your comments please.
A: I think the media don’t take it as seriously as we do. I think we first took part in the intercontinental competition in 1968 when it was a one-off game, and up until four years ago that was the format. But world football has grown and countries like Japan, Korea and China have developed. And a world championship tournament requires more teams. It’s an extra game for us but the prestige attached to it now is far greater than in the past.
Japan is a fantastic country, with fantastic facilities, a very comfortable hotel … everything is comfortable. Yes it’s a 12-hour flight, but even that’s comfortable. In twenty years’ time for us to look back and see that Manchester United were world champions is fantastic and that’s why we’ve come here to win it.
Q: Which Gamba players do you consider to be the biggest threat?
A: (Midfielder Yasuhito) Endo is their star player. He scored their goal (in the 1-0 win over Adelaide United in the quarterfinals). And they changed his position from behind the striker to the left side but he was still influential.
Also the Brazilian Lucas. He is tall and quick with his feet, which is unlike most Brazilian players. He’s very effective.
Two of their midfielders (Hayato Sasaki and Takahiro Futagawa) are also very good, but they will be missing due to injury and that will be tough on them.
Q: What is your secret to managing such a talented and diverse group of players?
The best way to judge it is that I have been at the club for 22 years and the experience is there. And once you handle one personality it prepares you for the next one that comes along. After a while it becomes quite easy. But the most important thing is that the manager’s personality must be as strong as all the players.
Q: How have your preparations been, and how do you deal with jetlag with a Premier League showdown with Stoke City scheduled for Boxing Day?
A: Changing the body clock in such a short period of time is the most difficult thing.
We had the players up at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning and made sure they didn’t sleep until the plane ride here. We’ll change back on Thursday to British time again. The medical side is taken care of the medical staff and I am confident we are doing all that we can.
Q: So does the opportunity to play other clubs with other styles really outweigh the inconvenience of flying out here at such as busy time in the Premier League schedule?
A: Playing different opposition doesn’t do us any harm, but the main point is that this is a chance to win a world title. We can become world champions in December but we can’t win the Premier League title in December. It is a little bit of a handicap but that’s what happens when you are successful. We’re here because we won the European Championship and we hope to be in Abu Dhabi (site of the 2009 Club World Cup) next year. The incentives outweigh anything happening in the Premier League.
Q: If you had to play a 39th game in the EPL, which Asian city would you prefer to play it in?
A: I don’t think there will be a 39th game, sorry. I’m not in favor of it. If you look at our domestic program, with all those cup competitions, I think it’s impossible.
If you ask me to pick a city I won’t, because there are so many good ones in Asia and I don’t want to offend anyone.
But I don’t think there will ever be a 39th game and I don’t think there should be.