Sir Alex Ferguson likes to reminisce about the good and sometimes bad old days – I suppose you have plenty of memories when you’ve been managing one of the biggest football clubs in the world for over twenty years. Reading an interview in the Daily Telegraph today, you get no hint that the Scot is fazed by the thought of facing Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals and instead seems to feel it’s his team’s destiny to make the Moscow final and triumph.
“You have opportunities in life when you can achieve something special,” Ferguson said, encouraged by the news that Barcelona would be deprived of captain Carles Puyol for the first leg. “There is something really special in this team and we can only approach this game in a positive way. If we do, we have a very good chance.
“Barcelona formed much of my early education in the Champions League,” he reflected, his mind turning to the night in 1994 when Romario had humiliated his players in the Nou Camp. “We lost 4-0 at a time when you were only allowed to play three foreigners and I made one of my great decisions to drop Peter Schmeichel. It did not exactly turn out well for us.
“And then in 1998 we met them in the group stages and twice drew 3-3. They were fantastic games, two teams playing football the way it should be played. At the Nou Camp we could have scored six and so could they.”
Indeed, it’s strange to remember that there was a time when English teams didn’t enjoy anywhere near the success in Europe as they do now. For many seasons, Manchester United were the sole flag bearers in this competition, regularly finding Spanish, German and Italian teams too much for them. Now there are three English representatives in the semi-final, adding weight to the argument that the Premier League is the strongest domestic division in Europe.