Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Ferguson ready to join pantheon of greats

There is no more fitting city than Rome and all its historical splendour for Sir Alex Ferguson to cement his status in the top echelon of the game's greatest managers by inspiring Manchester United to victory against Barcelona in the Champions League final on Wednesday.

The Scot has never been one for sentiment although the significance of the epic win against Bayern Munich in 1999 on what would have been Sir Matt Busby's 90th birthday had the hallmarks of a victory sent from heaven.

There was also a whiff of fate last year when United beat Chelsea to provide the most fitting tribute to the 50th anniversary of the air disaster in Munich – the club's darkest day. This time around and Busby would have been 100 on Monday, but Ferguson is happy to let events take care of themselves in what has all the ingredients of a final fit to stir the Caesars who once kept watch in the Eternal City.

"You had a feeling that night in Barcelona and obviously there was fate attached to last year as well," said the United boss. "That happens. But I think this type of game might be beyond fate."

It has the capability to be a fantastic final. Ferguson famously told his players before the 1999 win they would only be able to walk past the Champions League trophy if they failed to produce on the night and, even at the grand old age of 67, it would seem he still searches for the right words to inspire his players.

He added: "These things usually happen to me about three in the morning when I am trying to get some inspiration from the deep chambers of my tiny little brain. But at the moment nothing is coming out."

Ferguson will know his players will not get a better chance to beat an injury-hit Barcelona and become the first club side in the modern game to successfully defend their European crown. He will also appreciate that the La Liga title-winners are capable of magic on their day and in Lionel Messi possess a player destined for greatness. But Ferguson will put all of his faith in his own match-winners and trust they can deliver on the biggest stage.

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