Envious Ferguson eyes record of European elite

 

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted last night that his "envy" of a continental elite who have captured far more European Cups than Manchester United is driving his desire to put a dismal record against German competition behind him and progress towards a fourth final tonight.

Ferguson has always felt an acute sense of the disparity between his own club, who have lifted the European Cup three times, and others, not least Liverpool, who have taken five, and knows that United's relatively modest haul in this tournament is a blemish on their history. He conveyed a sense last night that time to make good that deficit is running out on him as he declared that this current squad had the experience to lift the trophy at Wembley, 33 days from now.

"My expectation has always been high in regards to the European scene, but we do get envious of the records of other clubs in Europe," Ferguson said as he prepared his players to face Schalke, 7-3 victors over Internazionale in the quarter finals. "We look at other teams' records and we are trying to get parity with that. We look at clubs like Real Madrid, Milan, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Liverpool and we really need to progress to get to that level."

Ferguson has lost eight of the nine two-legged European ties he has faced against German opposition across the course of his Aberdeen and United career, with Aberdeen's Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final triumph in 1983 the only win.

He has the 1999 triumph over Bayern Munich in Barcelona to reflect on, but the United manager acknowledged the dismal record and attributed it to Germans sharing his own will to win. "They have a self-determination, the German people, and I think it's reflected in how they approach all sports," he said. "There's a similarity with English people, though maybe more Scottish."

The sight of Wayne Rooney racing through training in high spirits last night suggested that the memory of his own dismissal at the Veltins Arena during England's 2006 World Cup exit to Portugal is in the past. Ferguson, who was coy when asked about United's tracking of Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, claimed that he had no knowledge of the stadium's significance for Rooney.

"What happened? Was it [here]? Oh, OK. Well, you have to put bad moments behind you," he said. "I think Wayne, more than anyone, realises performances are the thing that he will always be judged on."

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