Sir Alex Ferguson praised Manchester United’s Mexican hitman Javier Hernandez
MANCHESTER United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has set his sights on Champions League redemption at the first time of asking.
Fergie will never admit it, but the pain of May’s defeat by Barcelona in the European Cup Final at Wembley is still raw.
Barca’s mesmerising 3-1 win, inspired by Lionel Messi, promises to haunt Fergie for years to come after he was forced to admit United had been humbled on home soil.
That won’t stop him doing all he can to lift a third European crown as United boss, in the process becoming only the second manager in history – after Liverpool’s Bob Paisley – to achieve the feat.
Few would back against Pep Guardiola’s Spanish champions making it to another final in 10 months’ time.
But whether Barca are there or not, one thing is certain – Fergie expects United to be lining up in European football’s showpiece event in Munich.
He is still hell-bent on winning another Premier League title, because United fans expect nothing less.
But he admits the challenge is to mastermind another Champions League triumph as well, even though he reckons Barca show no signs of slowing down.
He said: “You have to combine the two. The Premier League is such a tribal confrontation between different parts of the country that you’re forced into trying to beat them all the time.
“You can’t get away from that. I’m sorry, you can’t.
“It’s not like athletics, where you can programme yourself to win the one mile at Oslo and then maybe wait until Stuttgart to win there, but that could be four or five months apart.
“We play every seven days, so you’re forced to go for the league.
“Our mentality is different. My mentality is different. I’ve got to try and show that we’re challenging for the league all the time and hopefully have the bonus of winning the European Cup.
“We’ve only won it twice in my time so that shows it’s not easy to combine the two.
“The Barcelona team is a team of it’s time and it’s a cycle for them, a fantastic cycle. You can’t really see it changing for the next two or three years.
“That happens in football. We went 26 years without winning it and hopefully we don’t have to wait 26 years for the next one.
“It doesn’t mean to say it (closing the gap on Barca) can never be achieved. I’ve got young players coming into the club that I hope will take inspiration from what we experienced in the final and be the challengers to them.
“We tried to win the European Cup our way, but we were outplayed by them. They are just in a great cycle at the moment. They are an exceptionally good team.
“We’ve done our assessment, looked at the game a million times, and it’s just one of those things. They’re a challenge but they’re a challenge to other clubs in Europe.
“We will try to move on and get above them, but the target is to be in Munich in May next year. Only then, if it’s Barca again, can we assess how we are able to cope with that, the change to our team.
“We will accept it. Barcelona played better than us the last time and this is the only way we can do it.”
One of the main reasons for feeling so positive about the future is the emergence of Mexican hitman Javier Hernandez.
The 23-year-old striker plundered 20 goals in his first season at Old Trafford and Fergie reckons ‘Little Pea’ is the most gifted forward he has ever worked with in terms of his ability in the penalty box.
Fergie added: “He’s not going to change from what he is. He is as good a player as I have ever dealt with in the penalty box in terms of movement, space making and decision making. He is brilliant with those qualities.
“He might even improve on that next year. But where he does need to improve is the technical bit. He is doing that all the time, though.
“When I watched him play for Mexico in the Gold Cup, the change in him was fantastic in terms of how he was linking play, spinning his defender.
“One of the goals he scored, the centre-back went to check him, but Chicho stepped away from him, went round the back and he was in. Brilliant.
“His decision making is brilliant in that, but I’m sure he will go on to improve his intuition and make himself even better.”