At the beginning of every season, winning the league title is top priority at United. You have to prove you’re the best in your own country for any European title to prove anything.
Sir Alex Ferguson is eager to win another European Cup, reiterating the point several times that a club of United’s size should have more than two winning seasons in the competition. He therefore took a gamble when we travelled to Stamford Bridge a few weeks ago, playing a weakened team, with the hope of preventing a Chelsea victory. Had it not been for a penalty 4 minutes from time, this gamble would have paid off.
Ferguson said the reason behind his team selection was that he felt our players deserved the strongest chance possible to get their place in the final. Playing Barcelona days later meant we had to be fresh. We had to win that game to go to Moscow.
Several sources said his team selection pointed to Fergie’s desire to win the European Cup being stronger than winning the league. Maybe that is the case, but not of us can judge that but Fergie himself. Before kick off against Chelsea, Ferguson had to be confident that even in the face of defeat we would go on to win the league with victories over West Ham and Wigan. However, a defeat against Barcelona meant we wouldn’t win the Champions League.
Regardless, we did win the league and we did book our place in the Cup final, but what effect has our title win had on the team. Petr Cech says it could make us complacent, whilst Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez argue missing out on the league will make Chelsea more anxious. Who’s right?
“Football is sometimes a game with no logic,” said Cech. “Having won the title, you would say it was a big boost for them because they finished above us and celebrated. But that can be destructive. When you know you’ve won something you can relax more because in the back of your mind you have already succeeded. Maybe they will be more relaxed and this could be the advantage for us because we have to remember the feeling of going so close and ending up so disappointed.”
Rooney has spoken of his great excitement ahead of the final, claiming that we will be more relaxed, but that’s an advantage over the nervous Chelsea. “We will be bit a bit more relaxed with the Premier League in the bag and they might be anxious if they don’t win anything,” he said. “It’s a horrible feeling waiting for the final. I’d like to go to bed tonight and wake up on Wednesday. It’s a bit like Christmas when you’re a kid, so I just can’t wait.”
Carlos Tevez has claimed we are a better side than Chelsea, and that the fact their whole season hangs on the Cup final, that the pressure will be on them. “We are a better side than Chelsea and that is a psychological problem for them,” Tevez said. “They may say that the Premier League is another story but we are convinced it will have an impact on what happens. We are favourites and everyone knows it. We are not worried by Chelsea. We are concentrated and focused. But for them it is different, this is more than a final for them. Their whole season rests on this game and I am convinced they could have some problems. They need to win to avoid a season without a trophy so the pressure on them will be huge. We have no extra pressure.”
Who do you think is right?