The Key Head-to-Head battles in Munich

This evening’s Champions League final pits firm-favourites Bayern Munich against underdogs Chelsea both of whom have had to defy the gods en-route the final.

Heynckes Di Matteo

Bayern’s Manager and Chelsea’s Interim Manager will have a huge say in tonight’s final

Bayern Munich, who I tipped as my Champions League winners in a blog post at the start of the season, will have the huge advantage of playing the final of European football’s showpiece event on their own pitch, in front of a lot of their own fans and in the comfort of their own stadium.

As nice as it is for Bayern to be playing on home turf, if some were to level criticism at them for winning the trophy in favourable circumstances then that would be grossly unfair given that they have overcome the likes of Real Madrid en-route to the final.

Madrid who early in the second leg of their Semi-Final clash had a 3-2 aggregate lead and a 2-0 lead on the night, were eventually out-gritted and out-done by the kings of German football who somehow found the strength to claw their way back into the tie and win it on penalties.

It is also hard to estimate just how much of an advantage it will prove to be for the giants of German club football to be playing at the Allianz Arena given that their home fans will theoretically have a far smaller ticket allocation than they would usually have for matches in their own ground. However, given that Munich are hosting the final it is more than likely that the ‘neutral’ sections of the ground will be awash with the red shirts and this anticipated wealth of support should give them the edge if they didn’t already have that in terms of their arguably superior playing personnel.

Opponents and ‘visitors’ Chelsea have endured a very strange season indeed. They have already slumped to a pretty dismal sixth-placed finish in the Premier League but they have also managed to land themselves some silverware in the FA Cup.

The other major positive in Chelsea’s season of contrasting fortunes has been their rise from the ashes in this season’s Champions League which has seen them recover from 3-1 down against Napoli after the first leg of their Second Round tie and from 2-1 down and a man down half an hour into their Semi-Final against a much-vaunted Barcelona side.

The man who must receive the most credit for dragging Chelsea’s season up from the cusp of a crisis is undoubtedly their Interim Manger Roberto Di Matteo. The young Italian has led the side he once played for with admirable calmness and confidence and should he fulfil the Chelsea Owner, Roman Abramovic’s, dream of landing the Champions League then surely he will be named the full-time boss come next week.

The outcome of the final could well be result of the team selection’s which both of the manager’s make and the reason for this is that both of them will be without several key players due to suspension.

Bayern will be without youngsters Holger Badstuber, David Alaba and Luis Gustavo who all would have been probable starters and Chelsea are missing their captain, John Terry, the ever-reliable Branislav Ivanovic and energetic midfielders Raul Meireles and Ramires who performed brilliantly against Barcelona in the Semis.

The probable line-ups for tonight’s game are as follows:

FC Bayern: (4-2-3-1)

Neuer

Lahm

Tymoschuk

Boateng

Contento

Schweinsteiger

Kroos

Robben

Muller

Ribery

Gomez

 

Chelsea FC: (4-2-3-1)

Cech

Bosingwa

Luiz

Cahill

Cole

Mikel

Lampard

Kalou

Mata

Bertrand

Drogba

 

I think the key battles to look out for tonight at the Allianz Arena will be as follows:

 

Bosingwa Vs. Ribery

Chelsea’s probable selection at right-back will be Jose Bosingwa who isn’t exactly renowned for his exemplary defensive strength and discipline but in the absence of the suspended Ivanovic he has to play ahead of Paolo Ferreira as he has the pace to try and deal with the rampaging runs of Franck Ribery.

Ribery Robben

Ribery and Robben will give Chelsea a lot of problem’s down each flank

Ribery is one of the the most talented players in the Bayern side and although he has failed to truly prove himself on the very biggest stages of world football thus far, maybe tonight will provide him with the chance to shine. Going up against Bosingwa will have it’s difficulties in terms of Bosingwa’s speed which should help him keep with the Frenchman but Ribery’s craft and dribbling ability could cause the Portugese full-back to have a torrid evening. If Bosingwa keeps Ribery in his pocket then much of  Bayern’s threat will be negated.

Boateng Vs Drogba

In the absence of first-choice centre-halves, the versatile German international Jerome Boateng provide’s Bayern with their only obvious option to command the central area of their back-line and the task ahead of him could hardly be more difficult than having to deal with Drogba.

Drogba Boateng

Drogba looks to have the beating of Boateng but the young German could emerge as the star for Bayern if he keeps Drogba quiet

There is arguably still no better player on the planet than Drogba when it comes to playing up top as a solitary front-man and if he is at his best then I would be surprised if Boateng and co keep him quiet for long. If Boateng is partnered at centre-back by an out of position and perhaps more importantly rather short Anatoliy Tymoschuk then much of the defensive burden may fall on his shoulders and he could be almost solely reliant for taming the undoubted threat which Drogba poses.

Schweinsteiger Vs. Lampard

Two of this final’s veteran players could have a huge say in the outcome of the match as both of them hold the key to their side’s passing games.

Lampard Schweinsteiger

Could these two decide the outcome of the final with their possession-play in midfield

Both Lampard and Schweinsteiger are seen as their side’s dictators of play and much will rest on each of their shoulders as they seek to win the possession battle which could prove very significant on the night.

Cahill Vs. Gomez

Having played very little football over the past few weeks due to injury, tonight could go one of two ways for Chelsea’s January recruit Gary Cahill. One possibility is that this short-term absence has kept him fresh and ready to take on Bayern tonight, but the other possibility is that he may be under-cooked which he simply cannot afford to be when taking on the likes of Mario Gomez who has already scored 41 goals this season in all competitions.

David Luiz

Gary Cahill will need to be at his very best after a brief injury lay-off

Gomez has some similarities with Chelsea’s target-man Didier Drogba in that they are both part of a rare-breed of tall and strong strikers who aren’t merely physical presences but who are also very mobile and very technically sound footballers. If Gomez performs to something like the best of his abilities then Cahill will have to produce an epic performance to try and keep him under wraps as his likely parter at centre-back will be David Luiz who in spite of an improving level of awareness still represents something of a liability.

 

My Prediction:

I think that both sides will provide a threat due to their respective absences of key players in key positions but I think Bayern will come out on top and deny Chelsea from winning a first Champions League title.

Score: Bayern 2 – 1 Chelsea:

Scorers (In order) : Gomez (First Half), Robben  (Early Second Half), Drogba (15 minutes to go)

 

 

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Turbulent week highlights the current South-South divide

In a week where the up and coming forces of Southern football are looking forward to ‘glamorous’ FA Cup ties against Premier League opposition, another of the South’s footballing forces, Portsmouth, have sadly gone into administration for the second time in just three years.

The ambition and excitement surrounding Sussex clubs Brighton and Hove Albion and Crawley Town could hardly be further from the doom and gloom descending on Fratton Park once again, as Pompey’s slump from Premier League status and two FA Cup final appearances into the depths and misery of financial strife continues to gain momentum.

After weeks of failure to pay their players and major press speculation, the writing was sadly on the wall for Portsmouth and their fans as they knew they would have to suffer the indignity of going into administrative control again. Things have reportedly got so bad that they haven’t been able to access their frozen accounts and as such haven’t been able to release the funds necessary to get a scan on captain Liam Lawrence’s calf injury.

Of course, this move into the administrative control of Trevor Birch does bring with it some hope of a silver lining to the very ominous clouds gathering overhead at Fratton Park. The moves that will be made by Birch will be targeted at clearing up the financial ruins at the club and will seek to make the club a sustainable force when moving forward from this incredibly precarious situation. Such improvements will make the endangered club a far more attractive investment prospect and if the administrators can engineer a successful sale of the club to a ‘fit and proper’ buyer then they will at least in the short term have brought the club back to it’s feet.

Hopefully for the sake of Southern football and British football as a whole, Portsmouth will bounce back from this latest huge slump but even with their now increased chances of finding a new buyer the club is set for an enormous challenge. The 10 point penalty hanging over their heads as a punishment for going into administration will bring them right down into the very heart of the Championship relegation battle and it will take one hell of a comeback to avoid the drop.

Not only will this period of administrative control lead to the loss of playing and coaching staff due to the inability to pay their wages but relegation too would have a major effect on the levels of quality and depth in their squad, as their strongest players will almost certainly seek the opportunity to jump-ship. The club will effectively be in survival mode for a period of time and will, for the foreseeable future, be something of a sitting duck as rival clubs will have license to raid the club of their best and most promising players without little resistance.

This position of enormous vulnerability is in stark contrast to that of Brighton and Crawley who are not only performing strongly in their respective leagues but are also about to enjoy the privileges of having enjoyed major scalps in the early rounds of the FA Cup.

League Two promotion hopefuls Crawley have already weighed in with a victory over Championship side Hull and will be looking to take advantage of a potential European night hangover when they host Premier League and Europa League outfit Stoke City this Sunday. Brighton are also in action in this weekend’s FA Cup 5th Round when they face up to a real ‘glamour’ tie against Liverpool at Anfield after having felled an in-form Newcastle in the 4th Round.

The exciting progression of these two Southern clubs doesn’t provide the only potential success stories south of the capital this season though, as AFC Bournemouth are flirting with the League One play-off places and Southampton are currently occupying one of the two automatic promotion places in the Championship.

Sadly though, the significant strides being made by several of Southern football’s resurgent forces and ‘new kids on the block’ are being put in the shade by Portsmouth’s high profile troubles. The South-South divide is developing at an alarming rate and it is fair to say that the Crawley and Brighton’s fans will be far more buoyant than Pompey’s even if they were both walloped 10-nothing this Sunday.

 

Manchester’s El Classico: The Breakdown

With the dust settling on today’s epic Manchester derby I have broken this rollercoaster of a game down into bite size chunks and run the rule over the key moments.

The first ten minutes and Rooney’s deadlock breaker:

Having come strongly out of the blocks it must have been a huge blow to City to have conceded so early and to have done so completely against the run of play.

The first few minutes were territorially dominated by the hosts and they too had the lion’s share of the early possession, but Rooney’s moment of magic came as a sucker punch. Having dropped smartly into the hole he received the ball into feet and shifted it swiftly onto Luis Antonio Valencia whose measured first time cross was met with a towering header from Rooney. All jokes aside about Rooney’s hair transplant and a consequent boost in aerial ability, this was a magnificent finish. He quite literally put his neck on the line and bravely rose to divert the ball home from the penalty spot, beating his own team mate Nani to the ball. This fine opening goal set the tone for a romping first half from United.

The red card:

For me the referee got it right. Some might accuse me of seeing this through red-tinted glasses, but I honestly believe that this was the right decision according to the rule-book.

I wish that tackles like that of Kompany’s weren’t red card offences, but if you go in two-footed like he did then you run the risk of an early bath. The rules of the modern game are designed to bring greater control and Kompany was naiive to raise both sets of studs when really there was little need for such a committed challenge. A simple block tackle would have sufficed but Kompany’s slide gave the illusion of a lack of control when it simply wasn’t necessary, and now we’ll never know how City might have fared with 11 men over the whole 90 minutes.

Kolarov’s brilliant strike and the shift in momentum:

To even have the slightest chance of an unlikely fightback from 3-0 down at half time, City desperately needed a moment of inspiration. Fortunately for Mancini’s men, Aleksandar Kolarov duly provided this with a brilliantly accurate, dipping free kick.

As is so often the case, City’s fans were lifted by the wonder goal and got back on side. Their renewed support picked up the mood at the Etihad amidst the miserable lashing rain in Manchester, and for the next 20 to 30 minutes City were undeniably brilliant. Throughout this period they strained to get behind the ball when not in possession, and when they managed to steal the ball they looked forwards quickly and brought the outstanding Sergio Aguero back into the game. This period culminated in Aguero prodding in the rebound to his own saved shot and giving City what at half time seemed the unlikeliest glimmer of hope.

Paul Scholes’ return:

United’s little, ginger magician returned today and played a significant role in letting City get back in with a sniff. Soon after his return to action, his sloppy short pass was intercepted in a move that led to Aguero’s goal and consequently City’s renewed hope of getting back into the match.

However, from that moment on Scholes recovered and reminded us of his great strengths. His pass completion percentage in the match was 97%, which is indicative of the calm he brought to United’s attempts to keep hold of possession in the last 20 minutes of the game. He may have contributed to City’s revival attempts, but he also played a key role in diffusing their late onslaughts.

Whether you are a United fan or not, it is hard to deny that Scholes has been one of the greatest players of the Premier League era and that his return to action is a welcome one. He may not have the legs of old but his distribution and touch were still top notch towards the end of last season and I can see little reason why this would have deteriorated since then given his continued training with United ‘s reserves.

His chid like grin as he stepped over the white line suggested he was more than just a little happy to be back in the thick of it, and most football purists will be equally as pleased to have him back.

The victors, and their reward for their efforts…

So… after all the mayhem at the Etihad, United eventually came out as narrow victors. Sir Alex Ferguson is rightly bemused by his side’s defensive fragility in the second half, but when he wakes up tomorrow he will surely just be glad to have brought a triumphant end to a poor couple of games.

United’s reward for the win is a tasty encounter with Liverpool at Anfield. Lets hope this equally brutal rivalry will manifest itself in a similar manner to today, because if this is the case we are in for another cracking cup tie.

 

 

Ferguson’s 25 Golden Moments from 25 years at United

As a United fan I am in awe of Sir Alex. What he has given to the football club is unbelievable and the job he has done over such a long period of time will surely never be matched by anyone in English football. If any criticism is to be aimed at United’s main man then maybe it could be argued that he hasn’t brought an enormous amount of European glory to the club. Given the length of time over which he has consistently guided United into European football’s premiere competition, the Champions League, he has by his own admission come up a little short. However, Ferguson has more than made up for the slight European disappointments with an enormous amount of domestic success in his tenure at the ‘Theatre of Dreams.


 

Over his 25 year period at the helm he has weighed in with 12 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cup wins, 4 League Cup successes, 10 Community Shields, 2 Champions League victories, 1 Super Cup, 1 Cup Winner’s Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 Fifa Club World Cup win. For me this enormous amount of silverware marks him down as the greatest football manager of all time. Though I have only been in existence for 22 of his 25 years at United I have many special memories of his time in charge and below are my 25 golden memories of his reign (or at least those that I have been alive long enough to recall). The selected highlights aren’t necessarily all about the great man himself but they have all happened in his time at the club and in truth probably wouldn’t ever have occurred if it weren’t for him. So United fans, sit back and enjoy…

1. That win against Forest and the consequent Cup run that ‘saved Fergie’s career’:

This was the season where Ferguson overcame his critics by overcoming an awful start to their league season with survival and a first piece of major silverware as manager of the club. The win over Nottingham Forest early in their run has gone on the record as the “win that saved Fergie’s career”. Though it has since been voiced that he was never in danger of the sack, few are convinced and this remains arguably the most important result of his career and United’s recent history.

2.Fergie’s first league win – The winners of the Inaugural Premier League title in 1992-1993:

The moment Sir Alex led United to the first Premier League title was the moment the world really sat up and took note of what could be about to unfold. No one would have imagined that he could still be at the club 20 years on having amassed a shedload of silverware, but it was clear that Ferguson was a man of enormous resilience and that he had a young squad capable of great things. The writing was now on the wall…

3.The Double Win 1993-1994:

Inspired by King Eric United followed up their first league win under Sir Alex with a their first League and Cup double under his guidance. On reflection, maybe this was the moment the world really sat up and took note of what Ferguson could achieve at the club.

4.Eric Cantona’s Kung-Fu kick:

Without a doubt this is one of the most memorable moments of Sir Alex’s period in charge. It is in fact one of the more remarkable things that I have ever witnessed on a football pitch and one more regularly seen on youtube as part of a shoddy recording of an Argentinian third division match. Though he undoubtedly shouldn’t have done what he did, it is a moment which added to the legend that is Cantona and in a sadistic sort of way just endears him further into the hearts of football fans over the world. There was always the slimmest of lines to cross between footballing genius and sheer insanity when it came to King Eric, and Sir Alex was always on watch to oversee plenty of both the former and the latter from one of the best players he has ever had the privilege of managing. 

5.Eric Cantona’s triumphant return from the Kung-Fu kick and the fireman’s pole celebration:

You can’t keep a good man down. One of Ferguson’s finest achievements as a manager was the management of the Cantona-debacle. Sir Alex stuck with his star man through his suspension from the game and was rewarded with the glorious moment that Cantona returned to score against bitter-rivals Liverpool, prompting his infamous ‘fireman’s pole’ celebration.

6.The Golden Generation (The Neville’s, Butt, Scholes, Beckham and Giggs…):

Almost all gone, but certainly not forgotten. The ultimate proof of Sir Alex’s brilliant youth development skills and of the value of producing a consistent line of young talent rather than always investing heavily in the transfer market.

7.”You can’t win anything with kids” Part I:

Hang your head in shame Alan Hansen… Having written off United’s chances of success with this infamous quote, the former Liverpool player and Scotland International was left feeling rather smug when Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle were flying high at the top of the table come Christmas. However, Fergie’s written off young-guns found their very best form in the new year and charged to the title in arguably the most exciting season in the history of the Premier League. The fierce rivalry between the two managers was epitomised by Keegan’s infamous on-air rant directed at Ferguson on Sky Sports where he yelled “I would love it if we beat them!” in rather maniacal fashion.

8.”You can’t win anything with kids” Part II: The FA Cup

Again… Alan Hansen hang your head son… For a man that is usually so brilliantly insightful in his punditry this was a rare moment of blindness, but what a moment of blindness! As well as humiliating Hansen with their Premier League recovery, they also compounded his misery by making it a double with an FA Cup final win over his beloved Liverpool. The moment that King Eric retreated in the penalty area late on against our fierce rivals to fire home a magnificent scissor kick was right up there with my favourite moments as a United fan and I imagine it ranks pretty highly in Ferguson’s favourite career moments as well.

9.Beckham’s 60 Yarder:

This was the moment where the star in waiting burst onto the scene with an outrageous exhibition of his ability, lobbing Neil Sullivan with a pinpoint drive from inside his own half. Sullivan was hardly a mile out of his goal, but such was the accuracy of the attempt it might even have troubled him had he been rooted to his goal-line. The confidence and vision exhibited by Beckham in this magic moment was typical of the confidence and technical ability of Ferguson’s golden generation emerging from the academy at this time. 

10.Roy Keane’s night of sacrifice:

Cometh the hour cometh the man. This game epitomised everything that was brilliant about Roy Keane and everything that has been brilliant about the many United sides led by Ferguson. In one of the biggest challenges of Ferguson’s era they had to go to Turin and win but things initially seemed to be going awfully. 2-0 down to the Italian giants and skipper Keane booked and suspended from the final, their backs were well and truly against the wall but Roy Keane was on a mission and he inspired his side to one of the most glorious evenings of Sir Alex’s managerial career. With this brilliant performance he also inspired one of the most famous pieces of commentary of the modern era of English football; “FULL STEAM AHEAD BARCELONA!”.

11.Winning the Champion’s League against Bayern:

“Can Manchester United Score?… They always score”, “Giggs with the shot….SHEEERRRRIIINGGGGHHHAAAAMMM!”, “AND SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT!!!”. Three famous moments of commentary that sum up the best couple of minutes of Sir Alex’s managerial career. That night in Barcelona was agony from the very start, but ultimately ecstasy won out and Ferguson was a Champions League winner for the first time. 

12.Winning the Treble:

Couple this first Champions League triumph with success in the FA Cup and winning the Premier League and you get Ferguson’s finest hour as a manager. Inspired by his golden generation of youth academy products and a couple of his best ever signings, he had managed to win all three of the most prestigious pieces of silverware available in one fell swoop. This was the greatest year to be a United supporter, hands down.

13.Yorke and Cole:

Probably more a personal favourite than one of the real highlights of his tenure, but Ferguson’s decision to bring Yorke to the club worked an absolute treat. Some questioned the move initially given Yorke’s lack of experience at the pinnacle of European football, but the partnership forged by him and Andy Cole fired Manchester United all the way to their treble winning success. It became as enjoyable to watch their clear friendship as it was to see them banging it in the net time and again.

14.The Comeback:

It is hard to believe now that Ferguson was meant to retire a long, long time ago but that really was the case. Perish the thought! What would we have done without the old codger?

The Signings….

15.Signing Roy Keane:

Ferguson had been monitoring the progress of Nottingham Forest’s fiery young Irish midfielder closely for some time and knew from the moment he signed him that he could be the man to lead his golden generation. As it turned out his decision to sign him was utterly vindicated and once upon a time Ferguson went as far as to say he was “the best player [he] ever managed”. Quite the compliment…

16.Signing Eric Cantona:

In his time he has made some controversial signings and Cantona was right up there with the best of them. Big talent coupled with an even bigger personality is often a concoction set for disaster but Ferguson knew exactly what he was taking on and made him one of the best players ever to wear the red shirt.

17.Signing Cristiano Ronaldo:

The decision to let Beckham join Real Madrid in 2003 rocked the club, but little did they know the spaghetti-haired Ronaldo would go on to surpass to individual achievements of their former poster-boy. Impressed by his showing in a friendly against United, Ferguson was hot on the heels of Ronaldo II with immediate effect and landed his man shortly after parting company with Becks. Not only had United lost one of their all-time greats that summer but they had also come agonisingly close to landing the world’s best player in waiting Ronaldinho. Had they not landed the world’s best player in waiting-in waiting then this summer could have been a mini crisis, as it turns out though Sir Alex had pulled off yet another masterstroke.

18.Signing Wayne Rooney:

From the moment he curled the ball sweetly around the best efforts of David Seaman in the Arsenal goal as a teenager he was set for stardom. The only thing left unclear in the world of Rooney at this time was which club he would become a star at, but Ferguson worked his magic and landed his man, the rest as they say is history.

The Rivalries….

19.Fergie Vs. Mourinho:

Enormous respect for each other on and off the field. One of Fergie’s greatest managerial rivals and in private very close ‘friends’, I hesitate with the use of ‘friends’ as you sense that really they have been in too direct a competition to establish a real friendship, but they certainly appreciate each other’s talents and achievements to the maximum. As stubborn as each other, as controversial as each other and in a scaled down sort of way as successful as each other. It all made for a brilliant rivalry which could potentially manifest itself in the form of Mourinho returning to English football as Ferguson’s successor.

20.Fergie Vs. Wenger:

Probably the greatest rivalry of Fergie’s managerial career and like the men involved it has matured greatly with time. Once upon a time Wenger was the new-boy striving to emulate Ferguson’s achievements and every now and then he has looked capable of doing so. Though he hasn’t quite matched the master, they are now both too old, wise, and frankly in awe of each other to quibble too publicly. Having said that, they are still partial to the odd war of words and a spot of the old mind games.

21.The Bust-Ups:

Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, the BBC, Kevin Keegan, Arsene Wenger, Carlos Tevez, and Rafael Benitez to name a few… he sure knows how to pick ’em doesn’t he! He simply wouldn’t be the Sir Alex we know, love and in some cases hate if weren’t for his high profile bust-ups.

22.7-1 win over Roma:

This may not have been the most significant result of Ferguson’s tenure, but to come back from losing the first leg of a Champions League quarter final and win the second leg by such a remarkable margin was incredible. It was one of those brilliant evenings at Old Trafford which went right from the word go, the passing was super-slick and the finishing clinical. One of Ferguson’s less celebrated signings Michael Carrick had the best game of his career and played a major part in many of the goals including two fantastic strikes himself. Alan Smith’s magnificent team goal that night spoke volumes about the counter attacking genius of Ferguson’s sides through the years and is probably one of the finest goals scored by one of his United lineups.

23.Winning the Champions League against Chelsea:

Ferguson’s second triumph was more about his brilliant young signings than it was about youth products but it was hardly any less satisfying. After almost a decade without European success United were back at the summit of European football courtesy of a penalty shootout success against modern-era title rivals Chelsea. Inspired by the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez this was a United side full to the brim with attacking quality and though it did take a shootout, this was a side that played their football the right way and they had also overcome the threat of a Barcelona side on the edge of greatness. This was an outstanding achievement and Sir Alex himself would tell you that this was right up there with his greatest successes as he has always regretted what he regards as a lack of European glory.

24.Holding on to Rooney:

Just about as good an exhibition in man-management as you will ever see from a football manager. Ill-advised, disillusioned and ashamed of himself, Wayne Rooney was on a crash-course with Sir Alex and the upper-echelons of United’s hierarchy which seemed certain to result in him leaving the club. Rarely has Ferguson seemed so defeated as the day Rooney told him he wanted to leave the club, but somehow he managed to work wonders and keep his star man. No one knows just how he did it, but hats off nonetheless.

25.The renewed United-City rivalry:

Maybe this a golden moment still waiting to happen really, but the prospect of City and United battling it out as England’s big-two with Ferguson still at the helm is mouth-watering. Though nothing would hurt Sir Alex more than falling narrowly short of City in a title race, nothing would satisfy him more than narrowly edging them in a title race. Let the renewed rivalry commence…

 

What an awesome 25 years it has been then. No matter whether you like him or not, I think it is fair to assume that everyone respects his longevity in the game and the achievements which have enabled him to stick around for so long at United. Just as a final little ode to the great man, below is my United XI from Ferguson’s era:

 

My Ferguson First XI:

Schmeichel, Neville, Pallister, Ferdinand, Irwin, Beckham, Scholes, Keane, Giggs, Ronaldo, Cantona