May 20th, 2009
05:50 PM ET

Inside Man Utd's training camp

MANCHESTER, England - As Manchester United near the end of another remarkable season, Alex Ferguson is in history-writing mood.[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/20/art.ferguson.gi.jpg caption="Alex Ferguson has set his sights on consecutive Champions League crowns."]

Not content with matching the record set by rivals Liverpool of winning the English league title 18 times, a trophy the Red Devils retained successfully in 2009 for the third season in a row, as well as taking the League Cup and the World Club Cup in the same campaign, United are now on the verge of a successful defense of the big one too - the European Cup.

Not that any weight of legacy was evident from the body language of Fergie's charges, as they trained at the club's plush Carrington training complex a week away from the final clash with Barcelona in Rome.

Despite the presence of at least 100 of the world's press in attendance the atmosphere was positively jovial and carefree, with only anxious cameramen concerned about their shots affecting the mood.

Top clubs are rarely easy to access for journalists but United's welcome embrace smacked of a club confident with its present state and rank of players. Cristiano Ronaldo is an awesome sight even in training, Wayne Rooney tricked and smiled his way around the pitch while Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes exude that thoroughbred class that has proved so valuable down the years.

Only Dimitar Berbatov failed to live up to expectations, or vice versa depending on your opinion of the Bulgarian. Slow, soporific and unable to hit a barn door with a banjo all day long he stuck out from the energetic ensemble as a lone loafer.

After training, with filming half complete, player after player then filed past the never ending row of microphones to patiently answer the same recycled questions for an avid gaggle of media bods eager to get their second hit of the day. For starved hacks used to writing essays from monosyllabic scraps, this was a feeding frenzy of unexpected proportions.

Bobby Charlton says it could be the best ever United squad assembled. This is hard to quantify, but on this showing and as someone who saw the same body language from the same players displayed before the semifinal thrashing of Arsenal in London earlier in the month, Barcelona should beware. Fergie has pen in hand ...

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Filed under:  Football