Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand believes the current squad of players have been dealt the club's toughest ever start to a Premier League campaign in 2013/14.
Speaking whilst on the Red Devils' pre-season tour of Sydney, the 34-year-old stressed the importance of hitting the ground running this season, as the champions look to defend their domestic title.
David Moyes will begin his reign as Manchester United manager with an opening day trip to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City, the same side that played in Sir Alex Ferguson's final home game in charge at Old Trafford.
Incidentally, it was Ferdinand's 87th minute goal that secured a 2-1 victory to commemorate the 71-year-old Scot's 26-year tenure in fitting style on that day, and the Swans will be sure to provide a stern test again, with home advantage on August 17.
"It focuses us, definitely," reflected Ferdinand in an interview with ManUtd.com. "There's no easing our way into the league this year. We've got to be ready to go from the off.
"We've got some big games in there but Swansea away is a really tough place to start. We've got to make sure we're ready for the start of the season because our first five games are probably the toughest that I've ever seen."
Chelsea and Liverpool are next in line to face Manchester United, with Jose Mourinho returning to the scene of one of his greatest ever triumphs as Porto manager, before Moyes heads back to Anfield for the first time since leaving former club Everton, where he'll be expecting a hostile reception.
The small matter of the Manchester derby also takes place soon after, with United travelling to the Etihad Stadium to face a new-look City side on September 22, after the visit of newcomers Crystal Palace, who will take heart from their League Cup quarter-final success against United in 2011.
Ferdinand added: "With a new manager coming in, we're going to be focused anyway, with people looking to prove themselves and places up for grabs. There's an excitement in the squad and that will build as the start of the season gets closer."
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