Man Utd Club Focus – With Premier League sown up Ferguson’s thoughts turn to Europe

Manchester United completed their Premier League triumph in the same manner as they have played for much of the campaign. A draw was enough to secure a record 19th title and a draw was what United got. For the final ten minutes the ball virtually didn’t leave the United half as the defenders passed it around amongst themselves, running the clock down. For their part Blackburn Rovers were happy with the draw and made no serious attempt to disrupt Sir Alex Ferguson’s side from their training session reverie.

However, the damp squib of the final minutes was never going to stop raucous celebrations erupting at Ewood Park as the referee called time. Ferguson for his part rejected claims that the league has been poor this season and well as refuting assertions that this title was all about surpassing Liverpool. The elderly Scot stated that the real significance of the result was that United had now surpassed everyone in the English game in terms of domestic trophies. Ferguson was in rare good spirits and said: “Winning a 19th title is a great achievement. Not so much because we have gone past Liverpool, but because we have now won more league titles than anyone else, as well as more FA Cups. That’s what Manchester United should be about.”

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Yet even in his moment of triumph, Ferguson’s thoughts couldn’t help but stray to Europe. The European Cup has obsessed the Red Devils manager for years, ever since his domestic dominance became unquestionable. Until recently there has been a feeling that, given how phenomenally successful United have been in the Premier League, they have underachieved in Europe. Now that they have reached their third final in four years that accusation is starting to ring a little hollow. Nevertheless there is still the desire to make up for the lost time. The game against Barcelona represents a culmination of all his campaigns in Europe.

After 1999 the Ferguson began to realise that the mantra “if they score three, we’ll score four” couldn’t work against the best defences and he set about altering the team’s ethos. Now their European encounters are based on impenetrable defensive solidarity linked with brutally swift counter-attacks. In Barcelona, the Scot faces the toughest challenge of his managerial career. Pep Guardiola’s side is the best since or ever possibly including Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan. Two years ago Ferguson’s side were comprehensively outplayed in Rome. Yet if there is a consistent theme running through the legendary manger’s tenure it is the ability to rise and see of challengers. Firstly knocking Liverpool off their perch, next the millions spent by Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and now he has the chance to knock one of the best sides ever seen, off their incredibly high pedestal. Nothing would epitomise Ferguson’s reign more than losing to Barcelona, taking time and learning his lessons and coming back two years later to beat them.

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