MANCHESTER Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson expects the English Premier League champions to be stronger for their title success when they launch the defence of their crown on Sunday.
United ended Chelsea's grip on the championship by winning the league for the first time in four years last season and Ferguson believes that experience will make them even better.
"What you want to see in a team now, after having won the league, is more authority, more consistency and continuity of their game," Ferguson told reporters on Friday.
"We expect the young players to improve a lot, like Rooney and Ronaldo. They will get better. There's no doubt in my mind.
He added: "We also expect a great deal more authority from players like Fletcher, O'Shea, Vidic and Evra.
"I think we have to see improvement there, and I think we have the right people to call on in terms of experience in the likes of Neville, Giggs and Scholes, Ferdinand and Van der Sar."
Ferguson is starting his 20th full season in charge of Old Trafford and is chasing an unprecedented 10th title success, a target he shares with evergreen winger Ryan Giggs.
"It's a great challenge for someone like Ryan Giggs, for instance," Ferguson said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for Ryan to get 10 medals because it's hard to imagine it could be done again.
"I think the challenge is more for the players."
Chelsea will again start the season as United's principal rivals but Ferguson does anticipate more of a challenge from Arsenal and Liverpool.
United's triumph last season was built on a flying start of 11 wins in their opening 13 games and Ferguson is looking for a similar impact, starting against Reading on Sunday.
However, of Ferguson's summer signings, England midfielder Owen Hargreaves looks the most likely to figure in Sunday's match at Old Trafford.
Anderson and Nani are included in the squad but may not be ready to play, while Carlos Tevez's move from West Ham is still being held up by red tape.
But Ferguson said he is happy to wait to complete the signing of the Argentine international and believes the Manchester derby on August 19 is a more realistic target.
"Understandably, I think, the Premier League and the FA will probably want to scrutinise every detail and I'm happy with that," he said.
"We know he's our player. It's just a matter of getting the clearance from the Premier League."
Gary Neville is still three weeks away from a return from an ankle injury and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Louis Saha have only just returned to training.
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