Despite relinquishing the title to Manchester City, the Premier League provided a timely reminder to Manchester United about their recent dominance in English soccer on Tuesday.
Midfielder Ryan Giggs received the award for the top player in the Premier League’s history, while manager Alex Ferguson was announced the top manager in the past 20 years.
Ferguson sidestepped the London ceremony two days after coming within touching distance of claiming United’s 13th league title in 20 years, but Giggs was forced to receive his award next to the Premier League trophy, which was adorned in the blue and white ribbons of fierce foes Manchester City for the first time.
United were minutes away from defending their title on Sunday, but City scored two stoppage-time goals to overcome Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and end a 44-year league drought.
“I think you have seen over the last couple of seasons that City have got stronger and stronger, and it is up to us really to try and win the title back next year,” Giggs said at the Premier League ceremony in London.
The 38-year-old Giggs has been part of all of United’s Premier League title-winning sides, making 909 appearances for the club to become the most decorated player in British soccer history and he still has the hunger to add to his collection of medals.
“We just have to go away now and come back tougher to compete next year,” the Welshman said.
So determined is Ferguson to topple City, the 70-year-old manager was back to work first thing on Monday plotting revenge.
“He didn’t sleep much on Sunday night. None of us did. He was in the office at 7:30 on Monday morning already thinking about next season,” United chief executive David Gill said. “We have to get on with it now. We can’t look back and feel sorry for ourselves. We have started planning for next year. We will come back fresh and I am always confident with this manager.”
Meanwhile, a confident Ferguson has no plans to relinquish the United hot seat he has held since 1986.
“He has a rolling contract and he delegates, he still has the enthusiasm and I am sure he will go on for many more years,” Gill said. “He made the decision to retire a few years ago, but in the end he didn’t and I think it was the correct decision. Football is his life. Long may he continue.”
Transfer targets have already been identified to try and compete with City, although United will resist trying to match their Abu Dhabi-owned neighbors’ lavish spending.
“Obviously, the work intensifies now in terms of actually doing deals and we’ve identified players, so let’s see what happens,” Gill said. “It’s a 365-day-a-year job that talent is always on our radar, but the paperwork is done in the close season and transfer window — we can sort out the deals beforehand and get them moving.”
Votes for the Premier League awards were cast by a panel of experts.