Alex Ferguson has revealed the motivation behind his desire to lift Manchester United towards unparalleled heights - the Old Trafford supporters.

After a decade in charge, Ferguson has turned the Reds into the most dominant domestic force, with four championships in five seasons. Nothing would give the new Carling Manager of the Year more pleasure than following in the footsteps of the late Sir Matt Busby by seeing United crowned kings of Europe.

However, it is the one million-plus fans who come through the Old Trafford turnstiles every season who provide the real driving force for him. ''People ask me what motivates me,'' said Ferguson, still high on the emotion of his latest title triumph. ''Well you only had to see what winning the league means to those fans. They keep me going. I'm supposed to motivate the staff and the players, but it's the fans who motivate me.

''We are still a young club; the players are still learning and have still got their hunger. With that hunger, you can achieve.

''My success when I was manager of Aberdeen was fantastic, but this is the pinnacle for me. I'm so fortunate to be here.''

No fewer than 1,046,547 fans watched United in Premiership action in 19 home matches this season, with an average gate of 55,081 - more than 15,000 in excess of second-best Liverpool.

It was another full house that saw Eric Cantona hoist the Premiership trophy - the tenth award to be paraded in the Theatre of Dreams during Ferguson's decade-long reign - after Sunday's 2-0 win over West Ham.

The spectacle provided a perfect end to an afternoon when United's reserve team and two youth teams were presented with their own championship honours in a unique clean sweep of titles for the club.

However, while Ferguson already has his own place in the European record books after guiding first Aberdeen and then United to the Cup-winners' Cup, deep down he knows that the true gauge for greatness is the Champions' League title.

Two abject failures were followed by stumbled progress into the last four this time, before Borussia Dortmund knocked the legs from under the Reds completely with 1-0 home and away victories.

Busby, the man Ferguson worshipped, set the English standard in 1968, and such as Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, and Brian Clough maintained it in the next two decades.

Fergie insisted: ''I don't judge myself - that's for others to do. I'm just happy to share in the success.''

However, most observers would agree that he must bridge that gap if he is to sit alongside the greats and, while he sits back to relax in the summer sunshine, he will be contemplating the decisions that can push United towards the last but greatest mark of achievement.

A striker of truly world-class standing is needed to bolster an attack which has relied too heavily on the goals of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer throughout a season during which Andy Cole has been either missing or misfiring and Eric Cantona looking more mortal than magician. Has the fiery Frenchman finally blown off course, as many critics claim, or can Fergie coax more greatness from the Gallic genius?

At the opposite end of the field, Gary Pallister's prolonged injury problems have too often left United thankful that in Roy Keane they have arguably the most complete midfielder in Europe.

Dutchman Jordi Cruyff has rarely shown the form that was expected when he moved from Barcelona, while Czech Euro96 star Karel Poborsky has had a disappointing season.

It all adds up to a summer of soul-searching for the United manager. He said: ''We'll have a meeting to assess the season and see if we can improve our team.''

However, Ferguson has shown before that reputations mean nothing when weighed against his desire to succeed - just ask Paul McGrath, Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes, and Paul Ince.

There's little doubt, either, that, by the time August comes round, there will be some memories to mourn and others to await for the Old Trafford masses that keep him going.

Ferguson, who was yesterday named as the Carling Manager of the Year, also won the award last year and in 1994.

He picked up the award at the annual dinner of the League Managers' Association last night.

A spokesman for the Carling Premiership said: "He has consistently fulfilled the dreams of Manchester United fans all over the world, yet he still talks of becoming even better.

''He deserves this award for many reasons, but arguably his ability to develop home-grown talent is one of his greatest skills.

''Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville, and Paul Scholes are just a few examples of the world-class talent emerging under the expert management of Alex Ferguson.

''People such as Martin O'Neill {Leicester) and Joe Kinnear (Wimbledon) were in the reckoning but with what Alex has achieved this season, he was voted No 1.''

Ferguson, who wins a trophy and a cheque for #7500, has indicated that the success of the club's younger teams bodes well for the future. He insisted: ''The standard of player coming through here is improving year by year.

''At the moment there are no names that I would put forward as contenders to break into the first team next season, but there are quite a few players who we believe will make the progression.

''We will probably bring a few into training with the first-team squad and then use them in the League Cup. That's what we've done before and we'll do it again.''

Michael Clegg, John O'Kane, Chris Casper, Terry Cooke, Simon Davies, and Ben Thornley have also won their first-team spurs and the fact that 17 members of the 33-man squad are products of the Old Trafford youth system speaks volumes for his belief that all domestic challenges can be resisted that way.

Whether that philosophy will work in Europe remains to be seen.

Ferguson added: ''Decisions will be made, but we're glad the season is over now.

''You get tired, and you look forward to your break and the chance to recharge your batteries.''