Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand admits the club are playing “catch up” as they prepare for a new season in the Champions League.
The Red Devils will face Bayer Leverkusen to open their campaign on Tuesday with Ferdinand believing last season’s early exit will leave the English giant starting on the back foot.
However, the 34-year-old is confident the club can make up the ground on their European rivals.
“If you don’t win it or don’t get to the final, you’ve got to catch up,” Ferdinand told the Mirror. “Last year we went out under dubious circumstances to say the least, but hopefully we can improve.
“We improved last season on the season before last, so hopefully we can improve this year.
“But the Champions League now is so competitive, the teams are so good and the players are so good.
“There’s such a desire to get into the later stages of the tournament, because the rewards are so high.”
The match against Leverkusen also marks the club’s first Champions League game under David Moyes, a break from the long and successful stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Despite guiding former club Everton in the old Uefa Cup and Champions League qualifying stages, there are concerns that Moyes’ inexperience at this level may harm the club’s chances of against competing for glory.
But Moyes said he had witnessed enough nights of Champions League drama to guide United in Europe’s premier competition.
“I’ve been there with Everton against Villarreal but we didn’t quite make the group stages,” Moyes told The Telegraph.
“I’ve watched plenty of Champions League games and played in it as a player when it was the European Cup before it became the Champions League. It was a rare excursion with Everton but unfortunately we didn’t get through.
“I was at the Real Madrid game here last season that went completely against us on the night. I’ve been to Old Trafford and Celtic Park for the Champions League games and I am always amazed by the atmosphere.
“This is something different. I’m now managing a club used to getting close to the final stages and I will try and do that again.
“Under the lights, a Champions League night, I’m hoping we’ll give everyone something to shout about. We’re going to try and improve our record. The players are always motivated because of the level of game it is and the competition it is.
“I’m really excited about it as I was excited about joining Manchester United. Every game has offered a new challenge and a tough one but I’m really looking forward to the Champions League.”