Picking Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever team is a tough task. He has successfully completely several transitions in his time as manager at Manchester United, all of his teams winning a trophy.
The team of the early 90s, including Eric Cantona, Andrei Kanchelskis, Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister and the like, could easily be chosen as the greatest starting XI Ferguson has managed. However, this side was never given the opportunity our teams since have had to win the Champions League, thanks to the ridiculous “three foreigners rule”, whereby only three non-British players could represent us in the competition.
The six years leading up to the rule being scrapped, this United team won three league titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. Yet we had to pick three players from Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Andrei Kanckelskis, meaning this great Ferguson team never got to play to the best of their ability on the European stage.
Sir Alex Ferguson needed to win a second European Cup to reflect accurately his achievements with our club and he managed it last season. However, when people, including himself, mention how he should have probably won more Champions League titles, the fact that one of his teams were denied to compete properly in the competition seems to be forgotten.
When you consider Liverpool had just three British players in their sixteen man squad when they won the European Cup in 2005, the unfair playing field is obvious. If the second best side in Liverpool could win the European Cup then, we will only be left to wonder what the best team in England could have won in the early 90s.
Ferguson has today claimed that winning the European Cup again takes priority over winning the league this year. Whilst I’d say the league title is always more important than anything else, I understand Fergie’s desire to win another Champions League title, particularly as the first team to successfully defend it, however I can’t agree with it.
“Is there a priority? The European Cup,” Ferguson said. “I think there is an opportunity to draw level with Liverpool’s 18 titles. But when you look at our record in Europe, it should have been better. Nobody has successfully defended the Champions League since the new format, so that’s a great challenge to us. We’re at that time of the season when I expect the players to kick on. I’ve seen it over the years. We’ve not always excelled in the last part of the season and sometimes we’ve lost leagues in the run-in. But in most cases, the players tend to respond and the present group seem to have a gear they can bring out. There is always a challenge and more expectations but the players have always made life easier for me. We are this year fighting on all four points. The challenges never stop and that means there will still be a lot of passion and hunger for more success.”
Clearly United are favourites for the title, with this season proving to be far easier than last, so I can only hope that Ferguson is confident enough that we’re going to win the league, meaning extra time and effort can be afforded to concentrate on Europe this year.
It’s not just about equalling Liverpool’s 18 titles, although there is great appeal in being able to shut those whiney scousers up, rather what our expectations should be. When you win the European Cup, you want to do it as Champions. The Champions League doesn’t prove who’s the best, just like no cup competition does, however if you’re Champions of your own country, then you have a fairly strong argument for claiming to be the best team in all of Europe if you win the Champions League in the same season.
You’ve got to win on your own soil, prove yourself as the best side in England, then go and see what else you can win. A League Cup would be nice this season, the FA Cup would be even better, and the European Cup would be the best, but they should all come as extras to the real prize, the league title.
Going to have to disagree with Sir on this one.
CHAMPIONS of England! CHAMPIONS of Europe!