Premiership success can't ease Man U's Champions League regrets
May 7, 2007 - 12:24:26 PM
London, May 7 - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that although the Premiership has become his priority, he would love to be able to replay his side's Champions League semi-final against AC Milan again.
United clinched a ninth Premiership title as Chelsea drew at Arsenal Sunday, but Ferguson could not keep his mind from straying to events in Milan the previous Wednesday.
Leading 3-2 from the first leg, United were made to look sluggish by the Italians, and were comfortably beaten 3-0.
'A few years ago I had an obsession about winning in Europe,' said Fergusson, 'but now the Premier League is the best league in the world so I suppose that was the priority.
'We play in such a competitive league, and there's such pressure at the big clubs to do well.
'That said, I would have liked to have been in the final in Athens. I would love to be starting against AC Milan over again.'
Ferguson put his side's success down to their blistering start to the season. 'The key was a good start to try to stay with Chelsea,' he said.
'Once we got that momentum, we never lost it. It's not easy to keep the lead for six months when you know Chelsea are dragging at your coat-tails.
'A crucial point was the resilience of the players when we started getting injuries.'
Their success has been based on tightening a defence that had become debilitating leaky, while not sacrificing attacking flair.
Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo, in particular, has been excellent this season, winning both the Players' and the Football Writers' Player of the Year awards.
Last season, United conceded 34 goals, scoring 72; the season before they let in just 26, but scored a mere 58.
This season, with Nemanja Vidic settled in English football and bringing an additional steel, they have, with two games remaining, let in only 26 while still scoring a highly impressive 83.
United's goal difference of plus-57 is equal with the Premiership record Chelsea set in 2004-05, and, over the course of a 38-game season, indicates they have, on average, been a goal and a half better than their opponents.
For the Ferguson family, Sunday represented a double success. 'I went to see my grandson play in a title decider,' the United manager said.
'They won the league, which is a nice family double. Then I went home to watch a - race on the telly, and when that was done I had nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs, so I watched the last 15 minutes of the game at the Emirates.
'I was in agony. It was like Arsenal were trying to throw it away. They kept giving the ball away, and Chelsea kept driving forwards. My heart was in my mouth.'
Although Michael Essien did head an equaliser with 20 minutes remaining, Chelsea could not force a winner that would have kept the title race alive.
Ferguson, who is now 65, insisted he had no intention of retiring. 'When I see the likes of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs churning it out every week, I know I'm in the right place,' he said.
'It's very easy at this club. With the history of the club and the loyalty of the fans, and with great young players, why would I give it up?'
Those thoughts, evidently, aren't biting too deep.
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