By David McDonnell
Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged his players to beat Barcelona and win the Champions League to prove they are a truly great side.
The Manchester United boss is angry at claims his side, who secured a record 19th title on Saturday, are not as accomplished as his all-conquering teams of the past.
And he believes all debate over the quality of his current side would be ended by beating Barcelona, regarded by many as the best team in the world, at Wembley on May 28 to be crowned European champions.
“Beating Barcelona would end all arguments about this team – exactly,” said Ferguson. “That’s their challenge at Wembley.
“I know we’re playing a terrific team, but would you back against us in a big way? I don’t think you would. We’re capable of doing very well in the final.
“There’s nothing wrong with accepting challenges, we’re very good at that.
“It doesn’t matter where the challenges come from, you have to stand up to the mark.
“And this side doesn’t give in, that’s their great quality.”
Despite Barcelona possessing such glittering talents as Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniest and David Villa, Ferguson said Pep Guardiola’s side should be equally concerned about United’s attacking players.
“Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez have terrific qualities when it comes to playing against anyone,” said Ferguson, who is desperate to avenge United’s 2-0 defeat to Barca in the 2009 final.
“You saw that last week against Chelsea in a game that really mattered, against the champions and the team that have been our strongest challengers for the last six years. That was the quality you saw from them.
“Hernandez is a dedicated boy who has met all the challenges set for him this season. He’s always a threat, he’s always looking to get by people and always making defenders turn towards the goal, which is a great asset.”
Despite the criticism of his team, Ferguson said his current crop of players deserved credit for rising to the challenge of reclaiming the title from Chelsea.
“It’s difficult to say where this team stands because we’ve had some great teams at this club,” said Ferguson.
“The 1994 Double-winning team, the one in 1999 that won the Treble, they both stand out, but all the teams we’ve had here have risen to the challenge, which is to win things.
“For some of the young players this is their first trophy – Hernandez, Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson and Chris Smalling – and that gives them the impetus to move on and realise what being a Manchester United player involves.
“I think that hunger will always be there because that’s my job. We try to select properly and try to produce players properly. All the players we’ve produced through the years have had that quality, that hunger.”