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Manchester United have refound their level with a return to the Champions League next campaign and will be given a rude awakening when they come up against Europe’s elite clubs.
Last season saw the Red Devils win the Europa League and secure their return to Europe’s elite club competition, having faced, largely, inferior opponents by United’s standards.
Nonetheless, they returned themselves to where they and many others feel they belong and Jose Mourinho is desperately trying to build a squad capable of competing with Europe’s best.
Victor Lindelof has arrived early in the transfer window for £30.7 million from Benfica, which signals the start of what is expected to be a busy and potentially chaotic summer transfer window.
The expectation is that Mourinho will have United seriously competing for the title next season, after finishing sixth last campaign, and making a serious impact in the Champions League.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic released, the club are desperately seeking new attacking reinforcements, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to leave Real Madrid seen as one possible shock transfer.
Alvaro Morata is seen as the more realistic option, with the Real striker set to the leave the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, as United look to make a serious statement to their Premier League title rivals.
But regardless of who does or doesn’t come through the doors at Old Trafford, legendary former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has issued words of warning to the club’s players ahead of next season.
The likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard will have to get used to the prospect of big European nights with United, while it will be the first time Paul Pogba has played in the Champions League for United as a key player.
And Ferguson has told United’s squad to embrace the challenge of beating the best, as they face a pre-season schedule that will see them meet Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City in the International Champions Cup.
“The great thing about United is you’ve got to accept the challenge of beating the best,” Ferguson told United’s official website.
“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.”
And if that preparation alone isn’t enough for Mourinho’s men ahead of the new season, they will
then face Real again before the season officially starts in the European Super Cup on August 8.
It represents the perfect opportunity for United to build up some confidence ahead of a campaign which is not only huge for the club, but crucial for Mourinho.