The victory – gained via a Wayne Rooney penalty and an Abou Diaby own goal – means Sir Alex’s men sit three points behind the London clubs in third place.
Rooney’s goal was his fourth in as many league games this season and restored parity after Andrey Arshavin had earlier given the Gunners the lead with a ferocious strike from distance. But United rallied, equalised and then took the lead just five minutes later when Diaby headed into his own net.
"I think the difference between us and the other three of the so-called Big Four in England is that we are totally and utterly fixated by our major objective, which is to win the title again and again," Evra told The Sun.
"It's easy to win a title but the tough thing is to retain it.
"So to lift the Premier League trophy three or four times on the trot is a hugely impressive achievement."
The France international revealed that he looks up to manager Sir Alex Ferguson and expressed his loyalty to the red half of Manchester.
"For players like me, Sir Alex is like a kind of grandfather to us," he remarked.
"He's really attached to his players and protects us well.
"But he does everything remorselessly well and expects us to follow that example. United is my family, it has a massive history and every time I pull on this shirt I feel like I'm carrying that history on my back.
"All the ex-players here are treated like legends when they come and take their seat in the stand, and that's how I hope I'll be regarded when I finish at Old Trafford."
'Fergie' and his 'grandchildren' will take on Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday.
"I believe that they will miss Ronaldo," Wenger is quoted as saying in The Mirror.
"They will find a new balance in the team and [Wayne] Rooney will pop up with 20 goals, or [Dimitar] Berbatov with 20 goals, that could happen as well you know.
"You could say that this is their Thierry Henry moment."
The Frenchman looked back on the time when Henry plied his trade in north London, and compared the exit of the current Barcelona forward to that of Ronaldo.
"When a player becomes too strong in a team, the way of the game goes too strong for him," he said.
"Others are a little bit isolated or forgotten, and when he disappears so many of the players turn up because the way of the game goes through different players."
When asked if the side could bounce back from the loss of such a talent, the manager signed off by saying, "Nobody knows really."
Sir Alex Ferguson has warned Anderson and Michael Carrick that they can ill afford to rest on their laurels, with the midfield players’ places in the team under increasing threat.
As Ferguson urged his players to improve on last season’s “poor” record against their closest rivals before the visit of Arsenal to Old Trafford this evening, the United manager attempted to shoot down suggestions of bust-ups with Anderson and Carrick in recent weeks, even though he clearly has much to ponder regarding his midfield.
With the perennially injured Owen Hargreaves still months away from returning to action, Ferguson needs Carrick and Anderson, in particular, to raise their games as United chase a record fourth consecutive title in the Barclays Premier League, but the negligible involvement of both so far this season has set tongues wagging.
Ferguson tried to dismiss as “absolute rubbish” reports that he had had a row with Anderson after he was told that he would not start in the Community Shield match against Chelsea on August 9. The Brazil midfield player had apparently shown a casual attitude in training and it is understood that an angry disagreement took place.
Anderson has been given only 59 minutes of playing time so far, when he was unhappily marooned on the left side of midfield during the 1-0 defeat by Burnley last week before making way for Antonio Valencia, but it is Carrick’s omission from the 18-man squad for two of United’s opening three league matches that has been most puzzling.
That is underlined when you consider that the England midfield player was included in United’s squad for every league match when fit last season but for the finale away to Hull City, when Ferguson rested most of his first-team regulars, with one eye on the Champions League final and the title already sewn up.
When quizzed about Carrick’s absence for the season-opener against Birmingham City at Old Trafford less than a fortnight ago, Ferguson was reported to have told the television cameras, “There’s no injury to Michael Carrick, you’ll have to ask him why he’s out,” sparking rumours that the pair had had a falling-out.
Having missed a penalty during the subsequent defeat by Burnley, Carrick, was also left out of the squad for the 5-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic, but Ferguson claimed that he does not have a problem with the player — or Anderson — despite making it clear that he envisages Darron Gibson, the Ireland midfield player, making a greater challenge for a regular starting berth.
“There are no issues with Carrick and Anderson,” Ferguson said. “What you’ll find is they’re not playing and when they’re not playing, you make it an issue, not me. I read about a dust-up with Anderson, which is absolute rubbish.
“We played Burnley on the Wednesday and had played the Saturday before it, and it was a chance to freshen up — that’s what we did.
“We’d got back [Darren] Fletcher and [Paul] Scholes [for the Wigan game], who were fresh and hadn’t played against Burnley, so it was just a matter of freshening it up. What we are also trying to do is push on Gibson as much as we can because the boy has improved at a fantastic rate of knots. We’ve been really impressed with him. That’s the reason [Anderson and Carrick were left out]. There’s no reason other than that.”
Anderson and Carrick are likely to come into contention for a starting place against Arsenal, with Ferguson hoping that victory will prove the catalyst for an improved record against their fellow “big four” teams. Despite winning the title, United took only five points from a possible 18 against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool last season.
“Over the years we have usually done quite well in that respect, but we didn’t do well last year, so hopefully we can do better this year,” he said.
Fabregas hopeful he will face United :Arsenal optimistic captain will be play at Old Trafford as Uefa turn up heat on Eduardo
The club are still concerned about whether Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby will be fit to face the champions, the former picked up an injury against Celtic on Wednesday night. Fabregas' hamstring is understood to be less serious than first thought, and the club will leave it to the last minute to decide whether or not he is fit to play.
Wenger said yesterday: "He had a training session today that was quite positive. He will have a definite test [today] where we will decide if we include him in the squad or not. I would say it is a real 50:50. [On Wednesday] I would say it was 60:40 against but he looked positive."
That the Arsenal captain was named in the Spain squad yesterday for the World Cup qualifiers against Belgium and Estonia over the next two weeks demonstrates that he is not too far from match fitness. He picked up the injury on Saturday against Portsmouth.
The fall-out from Eduardo da Silva's blatant dive to win a penalty against Celtic continued yesterday with Uefa admitting that the player could yet face sanctions. The European governing body said that they were looking at video evidence of the incident. The Uefa president Michel Platini added that they were determined to root out cheats.
"There are disciplinary procedures at Uefa and the procedure could be taken to suspend the player. Scotland often start such procedures – last time it was a Lithuania player [Saulius Mikoliunas] who was sanctioned [on the basis of video evidence in a game at Hampden Park]."
Platini said that Uefa wanted to introduce more referees to stamp out diving, a project that will be tested in the Europa League with two officials three metres behind the goal. "One day players will give up simulating because referees will see them," he said. "For years players have cheated because the referees were not of a good enough quality. I am convinced if you have referees close by that will prevent players from simulating. I have always said better to have more referees than a multiplication of disciplinary procedures."
Having been on the brink of a move away from Arsenal all summer, Emmanuel Eboué said that he would not be leaving the club and would like to sign a new contract. Booed by his own fans at the Emirates during a win over Wigan Athletic in December, and subsequently reduced to tears, Eboué said he had now resolved his differences with the club's support.
He looked likely to leave for Italy's third Champions League side, Fiorentina, but Eboué said he would be staying at Arsenal yesterday after scoring the second goal against Celtic in Arsenal's 3-1 win. "I'll wait [for a new contract] but if they want me to sign I will sign because I love this club and have to do my best for this team," Eboué said. Eboué, who has two years left on his current deal, denied that throwing his shirt to the fans in the last pre-season game was a sign he was off. "It [the booing] just happens sometimes in football," he said. "I'm very happy with the fans because they sing my name and make me happy when I play. I say thank you to the fans."
Liverpool physio Dave Galley will not be fulfilling his usual duties with the England national team next month, after Manchester United's chief executive David Gill felt that it could lead to the Red Devils' title rivals gaining an unfair advantage.
Galley will revert to the job he has done for much of the last decade, and work with the England Under-21s rather than the senior squad, to which he was promoted to assist senior physio Gary Lewin for the friendly with Holland earlier this month.
"Dave has reverted back to the Under-21s after one game," an FA spokesman told The Liverpool Echo.
"There should be no questions against his professionalism. We must be clear that there is an agreed board policy that has nothing to do with Manchester United that the medical staff should be independent.
"Franco Baldini (England coach Fabio Capello’s general manager) and Rafael Benítez discussed the matter yesterday and it was explained we wanted to see Dave working with the team in the friendly this month.
"We refute any suggestion that we have been pressurised by Manchester United."
Gill, according to The Echo, apparently drew attention to a policy brought in last year by the FA that means only non-affiliated medical staff can work with the national side, in order to avoid clubs gaining inside information about their rivals.
Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson saluted Wayne Rooney after the striker broke through the 100-goal mark for the club.
Michael Owen also got off the mark for United with Dimitar Berbatov and Nani extending their lead - all the goals coming in the second half.
However the day belonged to Rooney with his 100th and 101st goals for United.
He made the breakthrough with a header from Antonio Valencia's cross and then clipped the ball home after his effort took a slight deflection off Mario Melchiot.
Ferguson said: "It is a great achievement and he is only a young lad.
"Some players have been at the club for many years and not reached that total yet. It will do him a world of good.
"Strikers have to score - that is their mantra. If they are not scoring they think the world is at an end.
"When they are scoring they think they will never finish scoring. But that is what they are."
Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Michael Owen after the striker opened his Manchester United account during the 5-0 drubbing of Wigan.
After a week that had seen Ferguson give his public backing for Owen and Dimitar Berbatov - who also scored at the DW Stadium - the wily Scot admitted that he was not that surprised by Owen's strike.
"That is what he needed, he needed a goal," said the Old Trafford boss.
"It is what he is made of. All his career has been about goals.
"He is one the best finishers this country has ever had. Today can only help him.
"I was so pleased for him and Dimitar Berbatov. If the strikers keep doing that it gives us a big chance."
Nani sewed things up with a blistering free-kick in stoppage time and Ferguson was pleased with the way his players reacted to their midweek humbling at Turf Moor, especially in the second half.
He added: "You have got to react to defeat and it is always a challenge. But we got a really good response today.
"When you are making chances and dont take them it is a worry. We made six chances in the first half and did not take any.
"But the important thing is to have the patience to keep playing and keep believing and we did that."
Manchester United are looking into the possibility of signing Real Madrid’s Arjen Robben according to reports in the Spanish media.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has always held the winger in high regard, narrowly missing out on his signature when he joined Chelsea from PSV in 2004. The talented wide man won a host of honours in his time with the Blues, including back-to-back Premier League titles.
Ferguson snubbed the chance to sign Robben earlier in the summer due to concerns regarding his long-term fitness. However, he is desperate for a player of international pedigree, and Ferguson is ready to freshen his attack and is prepared to take a gamble at the right price.
Recent relations have vastly improved between Madrid and United. Last year the United chief angrily hit out at Ramon Calderon’s regime when he said “I would not sell that lot a virus” after there dirty tactics to unsettle Ronaldo.
New president Florentino Perez made it a priority to repair the damage and offered an olive branch once he was elected. United are optimistic there’s room for negotiation on the price and don’t see Robben turning down the move in a World Cup year.
"I thought I had scored the last Burnley winner against Manchester United," says Martin Dobson, now the club's head of youth development but once a midfielder for Burnley, Everton and England for whom the adjective "elegant" appeared to have been invented. "I came on as a substitute for Andy Lochhead against United in the 1967-68 season, the one that ended with them winning the European Cup. George Best scored the first goal but we equalised and then I got the winner. When I heard Burnley hadn't beaten United since 1968 I assumed that must have been the game, but apparently we beat them at the start of the following season, too. We had a good record against United, it wasn't such a big deal at the time."
For a player rejected at 19 by Bolton, a club by 1967 fully aware of their mistake in showing Alan Ball the door a few years earlier, Dobson did not just go on to have a lengthy and successful career but proved inspired in his choice of clubs. His father helped fix him up with a trial at Burnley, where Harry Potts liked what he saw, and what Dobson found at Turf Moor will come as perhaps the greatest surprise to modern ears. "Burnley were years ahead of their time, absolutely light years beyond what I had known at Bolton," he says. "I was staggered by their standards, their youth set-up and their progressive attitude. Burnley, Tottenham and Everton had been the top, most modern teams in the early 60s, and they were still miles ahead of the rest."
Dobson should get a rousing reception from both sets of supporters when he makes the half-time draw this afternoon. He has kept up his Everton links and took up Bill Kenwright's invitation to join other former players at Wembley for the FA Cup final last season. In his capacity as chief of Burnley's school of excellence, he only wishes he could take youth teams back to his other club now that Burnley are in the Premier League. "We are still waiting for academy status, so at the moment our games programme involves fixtures against clubs such as Stockport, Blackpool and Accrington," he explains. "We would like to play against bigger teams, but academies can only play academies, and nowadays you need all the facilities in place before you can apply. When Howard Wilkinson launched the scheme nine years ago clubs were allowed to sign up for academies first and build facilities later, but Burnley missed that boat."
Despite the frustrations inevitable in competing with all the north-west's clubs for under-16 prospects within 90 minutes travelling time, and Sam Allardyce's outspoken criticism of academy standards while at Bolton, Dobson believes in both the system and Burnley's ability to recover their former position as a nursery. "Last year five lads won professional contracts with the club and we are very pleased with that," he says. "Especially as three of them had been with us from the age of about nine. I don't think the value of academies can be doubted when you look at the quality and numbers clubs such as Everton, Manchester City and Sheffield United have been bringing through. We see that as the way to survive. We have already sold on players of the calibre of Richard Chaplow and Kyle Lafferty, and we are just as proud of Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez.
"Lafferty and McCann are Irish, and we are lucky to have a manager like Owen Coyle with knowledge and influence in Scotland and Ireland."
Clearly Burnley do not have the budgets of bigger clubs or the glamorous facilities, though what Dobson finds persuasive is the promise of a chance. "We are looking for hungry kids, and that comes right down from the manager. We can't offer all the glamour of a leading club but what we can say is we'll give you a chance to show you can play."
Not everybody makes it, as Dobson well knows, though he is ideally placed in his present position to make sure players not offered contracts will receive more help than he did from Bolton in 1967. "I just got a letter through the post, 'Thanks and goodbye'," he says. "I was devastated at first, then annoyed and more determined than ever. At the very least, when telling a player he has no future with you, you should do it face to face and be able to offer a few alternatives to soften the blow. Because rejection is only one club's decision. It doesn't have to be for life, though it can feel that way.
"When I was at Bury I would get players on free transfers and their confidence was on the floor. I would ask them what was their ambition and they would say to play for Bury. So I would say no, I don't want players with only that amount of belief in themselves. Footballers should be ambitious to play at the highest level. Bury had to be a stepping stone, and it could be. I remember a lad coming in who had been given a free by Burnley and then by Chester. He thought he must be useless. He was wrong. His name was Lee Dixon and he went on to have an unbelievable career. There will always be a wastage rate, everyone accepts that, but there is a right way of doing things and you can go a long way with self-belief and application."
That could be Burnley's motto. They have a manager who turned down Celtic in favour of staying loyal to what Billy McNeill dismissively described as "a village". The village managed to beat Manchester United in the week Celtic lost at home to Arsenal. It seems Coyle knows what he is doing. "He has been magnificent for this club, everyone from the players to the supporters feeds off his belief and enthusiasm," says Dobson.
"Turf Moor was rocking on Wednesday, it was a joy to see. I'm not going to make any rash predictions about Everton or the rest of the season, I'm just happy that Burnley have already shown what they are about. We can play, and however the results go from here, we are going to enjoy ourselves."
Sunday Mirror Sport revealed that Barcelona believed they were favourites to land Vidic ahead of AC Milan and Inter Milan after being made aware that the 27-year-old was looking to move away from England for personal reasons.
But his central defensive partner Ferdinand has been ruled out for a month with a torn thigh muscle – and that means Sir Alex Ferguson will not countenance losing Vidic under any circumstances.
United are now hoping that they can pacify the former Spartak Moscow defender with a £5m pay-rise under the terms of a new contract.
Vidic will be offered the chance to make a significant step up the Old Trafford money ladder with a deal that will take his current £60,000-a-week salary closer to the £100,000-a-week mark.
Vidic’s wife, Ana, is believed to be unhappy with life in Manchester.
But United are hoping that any reservations the Serbian has about his importance to the club will be ended by a new deal.
His current contract runs until 2012 – and United are willing to offer a 12-month extension so that the pay hike can be put in place.
Vidic has become a hero with the Old Trafford fans since arrival from Spartak Moscow in a £7m deal in January 2006.
But the man who was United’s player of the season last term will now have to decide whether to commit himself to the Premier League champions or look to move in January or at the end of the season.
Vidic is certain to feature in United’s Champions League campaign – making him ineligible for any other club this season.
Ferguson has made it clear, however, that Vidic will not be allowed to move before the transfer window closes on September 1 under any circumstances.
With Ferdinand and Vidic sidelined by injury, United lost 1-0 at Burnley in midweek.
Vidic returned after a two-week absence with a calf problem at Wigan to partner young Irishman Jonny Evans in central defence.
The barrage was a nice answer to MU's stunning 1-0 loss to Burnley earlier in the week, in which the club failed to score on several opportunities.
The teams were about equal on shots, MU had two more at 19-17.
United was sharper with 11 on goal compared to just five for Wigan Athletic.Read more:
Sir Alex Ferguson reacted to Wednesday's shock 1-0 loss at promoted Burnley by making seven changes and the United manager was rewarded with a superb second half display.
It took the revamped United line-up a while to find their rhythm but, after a goalless first half, Rooney struck in the 56th minute when he met a cross from former Wigan winger Antonio Valenica with a perfect header.
That was Rooney's 100th goal for United and it opened the floodgates.
Dimitar Berbatov put United in complete control in the 58th minute. The Bulgarian finished a flowing move by chipping over Chris Kirkland and shooting into an empty net.
Rooney ended any doubts about the result in the 65th minute when his shot deflected off Mario Melchiot and flashed past the wrong-footed Kirkland.
Owen, signed from Newcastle in the close-season, came off the bench to score for the first time since January with a sublime clipped finish.
Nani, who set up Owen's goal, got on the scoresheet himself in the 90th minute.
"You have to react to a defeat, that's always the challenge," Ferguson said. "We got a reaction, I thought our performance was really good.
"It's great for Wayne to get 100 goals. He's only a young lad and there are players who have been here longer who have got nowhere near that total.
"I'm pleased for Michael as well. He needed a goal, but he's one of the best finishers our country has had."
Arsenal maintained their impressive start to the season with a 4-1 victory over struggling Portsmouth at the Emirates Stadium that sent them top of the table.
Wenger still made four changes to the side that beat Celtic, but it proved a successful move as French midfielder Abou Diaby, brought into the team for his 100th Arsenal appearance, opened the scoring in the 18th minute from Eduardo's pass.
Diaby converted Emmanuel Eboue's cross for his second goal three minutes later but Portsmouth reduced the deficit when Younes Kaboul, out-jumping keeper Manuel Almunia, headed home in the 37th minute.
Any hopes of a fightback from Paul Hart's team were ended in the 51st minute through William Gallas's scrambled effort.
Aaron Ramsey confirmed Portsmouth's third successive defeat in the 68th minute with his first league goal for Wenger's team.
"We have had a brilliant start. It should create confidence and momentum," Wenger said.
"We now go into another week which will be another test against Celtic and then Manchester United. It looks to be exciting and interesting."
Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor repaid another slice of his 25 million pounds transfer fee as the Togo star's cool finish sealed a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton at Eastlands.
Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones fired Sunderland to a 2-1 victory over Blackburn.
Sam Allardyce's Rovers, without defender Stephen Warnock as rumours of a move to Aston Villa gathered momentum, took the lead in the 21st minute when French defender Gael Givet smashed a long-range effort past Marton Fulop.
But Sunderland equalised after 32 minutes as Jones took advantage of a slip by Christopher Samba to slot home.
Jones wasn't finished there. In the 53rd minute he met Lee Cattermole's cross with a bullet header to seal the points for Steve Bruce's team.
Hull won for the first time in 13 league matches as Algeria striker Kamel Ghilas's first goal for the club earned a 1-0 victory over Bolton at the KC Stadium.
Ghilas was making his first start for the Tigers after signing from Spanish club Celta Vigo earlier this month.
He marked the occasion in the 61st minute with a blistering volley from Jozy Altidore's pass.
Stoke recovered from their midweek thrashing by Liverpool by grinding out a 0-0 draw at Birmingham.
The Manchester United star has accepted that he will eventually need surgery on a problematic ankle injury...
Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has admitted that he is expecting surgery to rid himself of a persistent ankle problem.
The Northern Ireland international has been plagued by the injury since Christmas, and has even had to endure pain killing injections to delay the need for operation.
Despite successfully prolonging the inevitable for so long, Evans has conceded that he will require surgery on the injury at some point in the near future.
"At some point my ankle will need surgery," the 22-year-old is quoted as saying by the Press Association.
"It is a problem that has been bothering me since Christmas.
"We thought it might have gone away over the summer but it is still there.
"Every now and again I catch it and it will be quite sore for a while. Then the pain dies off after a week or so."
Evans has been forced to step in for first-team regulars Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand on numerous occasions over the last year and gained plaudits for his assured performances.
Injuries to both Ferdinand and Vidic at the start of the current campaign have resulted in Evans being called into action once again although with Serbian star Vidic likely to return against Wigan on the weekend, the Belfast-born defender may be afforded a rest.
With the confirmation that England international Ferdinand could be out of action for up to four weeks, Evans has admitted that his absence will be a major loss to the Premier League champions.
"Rio is a good leader, a very good defender and a great player," he added.
"He is a big character who brings a lot to the team when he is playing." Following the Red Devil's surprise defeat to Burnley in midweek, the former Sunderland loanee went on to claim that the players are reeling just as much as the Manchester United fans.
"The players all look at themselves," said Evans.
"They are winners. They hate losing training games so it is no different in Premier League matches.
"They all know how the manager is feeling and how the fans are feeling. But it hurts the players too."
The Scot did not make an immediate impression on the nation's consciousness in his two and a half years south of the border as a player with Bolton in the mid-90s, though he did strike up a friendship with fellow Glaswegian David Moyes, then at Preston. "He was studious about the game even then," Coyle says of the manager who on Sunday follows Sir Alex Ferguson into the Turf Moor cauldron, after the midweek result that made the football world sit up and take notice of events in east Lancashire. "You could tell he would go on to make his mark in management."
And would Coyle in turn have struck Moyes as future management material? "Possibly not as much," the Burnley manager admits. "I was always vocal, I wouldn't say studious. I enjoyed playing the game so much I never wanted to stop. Nothing beats playing, that's why I took a few jobs as player-manager. I wanted to stay involved on the pitch for as long as I could."
If management is a second-best option, however, Coyle did the supposedly predictable Premier League a favour and scaled heights few others will reach in beating United at the first time of asking. Moyes has managed that once in the league in his seven years at Everton, while Wigan Athletic, United's opponents tomorrow afternoon, are in their fifth season in the top flight and have still to beat any top-four side. Coyle takes an obvious pride in his players' achievement on Wednesday, though he is careful to describe the three points as "the same ones we could have won at Stoke" and even more dismissive of suggestions that he out-thought Ferguson.
"We're under no illusions here," he explains. "At their maximum Manchester United would have won. They have quality running right through their team, their movement is terrific and when both teams are at their best we are not as good as they are. United are still my tip to win the league.
"All I said to the lads before the game was that they will not be brilliant every week, and that if we played well we would have a chance. That was how it worked out. United changed their team a bit, we showed the quality we have and I don't think anyone can deny we deserved the three points. Sir Alex was very gracious afterwards."
Robbie Blake, scorer of the goal that knocked the champions out of their stride, can back this up. "No one thought we had a prayer against United, but the gaffer did," he explains. "He was very upbeat before the game, telling us United couldn't possibly play well all the time. He was the same after the defeat at Stoke. He told us we could take a lot of positives from the game, that we hadn't been nearly as bad as people were suggesting, and that we would get results if we carried on playing like that.
"He's very good at building up belief and team spirit, but what he's even better at is keeping your feet on the ground. There's no chance of anyone getting carried away here, we all know we are in for a long hard season and that there's plenty of work to do. Celebrate too much in football and the next minute you fall flat on your face. The gaffer won't let anyone get above their station."
It is hardly surprising Burnley players should show such loyalty to Coyle when he demonstrated his own loyalty over the summer. He could have been Celtic manager by now, and still cannot quite believe he turned down his dream job, but the vacancy came at the wrong time and he felt he owed something to the people who had placed such faith in him.
Plus, having taken Burnley up through the play-offs, he was thoroughly enjoying himself at what the former Celtic captain and manager Billy McNeill rather patronisingly described as a village. "Billy is a pal of mine and the first British player ever to lift the European Cup, so I'm not going to start an argument with him," Coyle says. "You have to put that remark in a context. He didn't mean to insult Burnley, he's just Celtic through and through and always will be. I'm Celtic through and through come to that, I'll be a Celtic fan until I die.
"It was a difficult decision to make but it was made for the right reasons and I'm happy with it. I like what's going on here, what's been achieved. We may be underdogs in most of our Premier League matches, but what difference does that make? It's what happens when you cross the line that counts. And Billy is right in a way, you could fit the entire population of Burnley into Old Trafford. But what that means, per head of population, is that we're the world's best supported football team."
On Wednesday evening, with the famous old ground creaking under the strain of people enjoying themselves, it must have felt like it. "The stadium is a bit ramshackle, but that's the way I like it," Coyle says. "That's the sort of ground I have been brought up on. I'll tell you something else, too. I've played football all over Scotland – Dumbarton, Dundee, Falkirk, St Johnstone and a few others – but wherever I've been on a Saturday there were always buses leaving for the Celtic or Rangers game. All you ever see in Burnley is Burnley tops and scarves. I love that."
A dome. A big, red glass dome. One with a health club and swimming pools and shops. One that can be seen from miles around. He can picture it now, sitting proudly behind the football ground.
But what he sees is not Wigan Athletic's DW Stadium, renamed after its local benefactor this summer. It is Old Trafford and his unfulfilled vision for Manchester United.
Back in 1989, Whelan's friend and United chairman Martin Edwards called to ask if he wanted to buy a controlling 51 per cent stake in the club for £11m.
According to Whelan, Edwards wanted to sell up to help his brother who had run into financial trouble selling boats in Majorca and Michael Knighton's takeover had fallen through, shortly after the flamboyant businessman had announced his arrival by playing keepy-uppy in front of a packed Stretford End.
Whelan agreed but quickly changed his mind, fearful that fans of United's rivals would turn against his JJB Sports empire.
It was not, he admits, one of his better business decisions. 'I should have done it, no question,' he says.
'I would have got a controlling interest in the biggest club in the world for £11m. I thought towns like London, Liverpool and Leeds wouldn't take kindly to me being involved with Manchester United and JJB Sports. I was probably wrong.
OK, Liverpool people would have taken exception. So, you don't do a lot of business in Liverpool. But what a deal and what a buy.
'Michael Knighton was at the table when Martin offered it to me and so was Bobby Charlton. He refused to talk to Knighton, full stop. Bob's view was that Knighton shouldn't even be at Old Trafford. He thought what he'd done was despicable.
Doomed: Michael Knighton shakes hands with Martin Edwards at Old Trafford but his Manchester United takeover never happened
'Knighton was absolutely full of himself. He had front, an awful lot of it. Why I don't know. He'd been on the pitch kicking the ball about and scoring a penalty. How much front have you got to do that?
'Then he said he couldn't get the money. I was seriously, seriously tempted.'
It was then that Whelan had his vision for the red dome next to Old Trafford. 'I'd got plans to build a massive health and leisure club with a shop underneath and a big red dome on the top with lights coming out of it that signalled 'We are Man United'.
'I drew up those plans and Nike wanted to be the sponsors of it. Everybody would have been able to see it. It would have been fantastic as a landmark and changed United from what it is now to the Manchester United of the world.'
So would Lancashire lad Whelan have been a better owner for United than the Glazer family?
Wigan win: Whelan in celebratory mood
'One thing I couldn't have got for them is more success,' he says. 'What Sir Alex Ferguson has done there is absolutely incredible. He's the king and has been for 20-odd years. I would have loved to work with him.'
Instead, Whelan suggested to Edwards that he float United on the stock market. He did, for £18m. Fifteen years later, Malcolm Glazer bought the club for £790m.
In his new book, Whelan is forthright about the Glazer takeover. He describes the Premier League rules that allowed the American tycoon to borrow money to buy United and then load his debt back on to the club as 'disgusting'.
'The Glazers haven't broken any rules,' says Whelan, who also revealed that Blackburn never told him of Matt Busby's interest in signing him for United when he was a full back at Ewood Park in the Fifties.
'But they borrowed money on behalf of Manchester United to buy the shares in the club. That is incredible. The league should clamp down on that. And it will happen.'
A plaque in the foyer at the DW Stadium commemorates the day on August 4, 1999, when Ferguson brought his Treble winners to Wigan to open the new ground.
Wigan have not taken so much as a point off United since they came up to the Premier League four years ago.
United won the title there in 2008 and went a long way to retaining it with another victory in May. They return today after their shock defeat at Burnley.
'The alarm bells must have been ringing in United's dressing room after the match,' he says.
'To lose at Burnley will be a wake-up call for those players. They will be on fire when they come here. If we can beat United, it's time for a celebrationRead more:
United have scored only once in their opening two games, Rooney's winner against Birmingham City last weekend, and Ferguson's message to his strikers is that they need to ease the burden on a defence that will be without the injured Rio Ferdinand for up to another month. "The ratio of goals last season was our poorest for 15 years in terms of goal difference," Ferguson said. "That was an issue last term and it's going to be an issue this season unless our strikers step up to the mark."
By that, he was referring in particular to Owen, whose form on United's pre-season tour to Asia has deserted him and whose confidence looked broken when the champions lost 1-0 at Burnley on Wednesday. Ferguson remains supportive of his summer signing but the manager did not dispute that Owen had started slowly. "A lot of players over the years come to the club and take to it like a duck to water. Some need time. He will be all right."
Berbatov's apparent inability to forge a potent partnership with Rooney is another concern, the two strikers having created only a goal apiece for each other in almost a year of being in the same team. United have a huge shortfall to make up now that Cristiano Ronaldo and, to a lesser extent, Carlos Tevez have left the club and Ferguson seemed to indicate that Berbatov, like Owen, was struggling for confidence.
"He would like to score a goal," Ferguson said. "Strikers are like that. They always feel as if scoring is the most important thing. That's the case with Dimitar. He had a couple of attempts [against Burnley] and he also had a header cleared off the line against Birmingham. He has a languid style and maybe that's the thing that is counting against him – his style of play, rather than his actual effect on the game."
The news that Ferdinand's thigh injury is more serious than first thought is offset by the return of a fit-again Nemanja Vidic when United travel to Wigan Athletic today. However, it is clearly at the other end of the field that Ferguson is most concerned, despite reiterating that he would not be buying anyone before the transfer window closes.
Owen had a shocking evening at Turf Moor, substituted 63 minutes into a match in which the watching England manager Fabio Capello will have seen little reason to restore him to the national squad.
"Michael is exactly the same as Dimitar," Ferguson said. "He could do with a goal. He had two [chances] on Wednesday and should have scored both of them. He knows that. He will be wanting that goal but there's no question about it that his movement and positional play in the last third is very, very good. We are just waiting on that goal that will set him off."
That opportunity could have arrived when United won a penalty against Burnley but the responsibility was given to Michael Carrick whose effort was saved. "Michael said he felt confident taking penalty-kicks," Ferguson explained. "He asked to take it and he had never missed a penalty in all our shoot-outs over the last few years. He was a confident choice."
Nonetheless, that decision will now be reviewed. "Anderson can take a penalty kick, [Ryan] Giggs can take a penalty-kick," the manager added. "They have both been successful over the last few years."
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