Hargreaves predicts improvement for United

August 1, 2008

Owen Hargreaves has sent out an eve-of-season warning to Manchester United's domestic and European rivals: we can get even better.

Hargreaves is not saying United will win more, but the England international has made it clear the Red Devils will not relinquish their Champions League and Premier League crowns without a fight.

'I definitely believe we can get better,' he said.

'Cristiano Ronaldo is injured and Anderson will be away at the Olympics, so we will miss them early on, but apart from that the squad looks good.

'The group has been together for a year now, so we should improve and I am looking forward to seeing us do just that.

'Gary Neville is back, which is important and when you look at what Wayne Rooney has achieved, at just 22, I think he could be one of the most influential players in the Premier League this season.'

Few expect the eventual champions to come from outside the group of four who seem to have annexed the Champions League berths in recent times.

Hargreaves, though, is prepared to throw Tottenham into the mix, although the loss of Dimitar Berbatov to United would be a grievous blow for Juande Ramos to absorb.

In the end, the former Bayern Munich man believes the so-called 'big four' will be the top four at the end of the season. And it comes as no surprise to learn he is tipping his own club and Chelsea to be fighting it out at the finish, just as they did last term.

'I would be extremely happy if we can improve on last season, although it is going to be tough,' he said.

'Chelsea have improved. Tottenham will be a good side, so will Liverpool and Arsenal will be a threat even though they have lost a few players.

'It is going to be a very exciting season in the Premier League but I am sure ourselves and Chelsea will be the big two.'

Unlike last season, those two sides will not be meeting in the Community Shield at Wembley.

An FA Cup full of shocks and surprises has seen winners Portsmouth allocated a place in the annual showpiece, the middle part of a trilogy which saw the Red Devils meet Pompey in Nigeria and will also see them face of in the Premier League at Fratton Park on August 25.

While victory under Wembley's giant arch would be well received at Old Trafford, defeat provides no reason for tears, just an idea of what needs to be done ahead of an encounter with Newcastle in the league three days later.

And, no matter who comes out on top in Sir Alex Ferguson's personal battle with Harry Redknapp, that is what all the hard work United have put in over the past few weeks has been geared towards.

'Pre-season training is tough going,' said Hargreaves.

'You can lose a lot in three weeks and I have never found anyone who enjoys it. Your day pretty much consists of eat, sleep and train. But you have to try and build a base for the new season.'

After suffering tendinitis problems in his two summers at United, Hargreaves is not as well placed as he would like to be in assessing the relative merits of pre-season work in England and Germany.

However, he is prepared to confirm life in both countries has improved markedly on his first few years as a professional.

'For a year or two at Bayern we trained extremely hard,' he recalled with not a hint of pleasure.

'But in the end we are football players and we need to be football fit. That is the most important thing, not running up and down with medicine balls.'

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