Date:Tuesday May 20 2008
In order to attain true greatness, Sir Alex Ferguson has to win the Champions League for the second time tomorrow, according to the English press. Nonsense, according to me.
United take on Chelsea in Moscow, a team we are unlikely to beat easily, with totally controlling the game. If a bad refereeing decision goes against us or the ball simply bounces back off the post two or three times and we end up losing on penalties, will that mean that Fergie will never be a great manager?
No, of course not. Rafa Benitez acquired the title „master tactician in Europe" because he turned around a game after making disastrous mistakes at the start. And if reports are to be believed - and the man`s own admission is true - then he did not really get across what he meant to say at half-time.
Slagging off Fergie`s achievements referring to his European Cup adventures is one of the favourite pastimes of the ABUs and they look desperately for reasons to knock him. Yet if we win tomorrow on penalties he`ll have that second European Cup that theoretically should prove his greatness - hopefully in the same way that six minutes of madness and a penalty shootout proved Benitez is infallible when it comes to the Champions League.
But the point is that a one-off game matters little in this sense. I doubt that Fergie will make huge tactical errors and I doubt that he can cause great shocks to Chelsea with his selection and tactics: in this modern era, teams know almost everything about each other, they have access to every game their opponents played in the last few years - and these teams know each other very well in any case. So Chelsea will be prepared and so will be United.
The manager, for me, proved his greatness by building and blending yet another brilliant team that reached the final. You have to be at your best tactically to get there - that`s where the manager really comes to the fore. But in the final? Especially against Chelsea, what more can he tell his troops? The onus is now on the players to finish the job. Fergie`s teamtalk will be important but his teamtalks are usually inspirational and I don`t see why it would be different this time.
He must use his substitutions cleverly but I don`t think there will be a problem with that. But no matter what masterstrokes he pulls off if the players do not fulfil their tasks then we will lose this game - but it won`t detract from Fergie`s greatness.
His medal count, his longevity in a very demanding environment should ensure greater respect shown towards him. Yet we have to endure lingering doubts about his capabilities because he won Europe`s most difficult cup competition only once: a competition where a single mistake or bad luck can prove fatal. And over the years his best teams had ample reasons to curse their misfortune.
Date:Tuesday May 20 2008
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