Monday, 27 April 2009

Ferguson driven by European dream

The sun was still piercing through the crowds at Old Trafford long after Manchester United had completed a shock 5-2 comeback win against Tottenham when Sir Alex Ferguson turned his thoughts to the Champions League.

Europe's premier club competition remains the benchmark, according to the game's longest-serving manager, and the chance to lock horns again with Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger on Wednesday guarantees extra spice to an already intriguing semi-final two-legged tie. Cordial relations may have resumed between the pair but when Ferguson and Wenger come together there are usually fireworks.

Ferguson also enters into the unknown because United have never faced Premier League opposition in a two-legged match. He is also driven by a disappointment that United have not won the competition more than twice (1999, 2008) since the official inauguration of the tournament in 1992/93.

"It's not easy winning a European Cup. Christ, it took me 13 years to win one, then another nine to win it again," the United manager said. "We've had good teams throughout that time, but it's just not an easy thing to do. What I've always said, though, is that a club like Manchester United should have done better in European competitions."

Real Madrid are the most successful side overall in Europe with nine triumphs, followed by seven for AC Milan, five for bitter rivals Liverpool and four each for Bayern Munich and Ajax. United have triumphed in the competition three times overall but it irks Ferguson that they are not in that top bracket of past winners.

He added: "That's what's driving me at the moment. Winning in Moscow [against Chelsea in 2008] gave me more satisfaction than winning the title last year. I'm not saying we should be up there with Real Madrid – they won a lot of their titles before the rest of Europe was really focused – but there's no reason why a club like this shouldn't be in the next band. We've still got ground to make up on the likes of Ajax and Bayern Munich, as well as Milan and Liverpool."

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