Football: European Cup Final - Ferguson acclaims `incredible' victory

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The Independent Online
FOR ONCE, Alex Ferguson was lost for words. "I can't believe it," a dazed-looking Manchester United manager said, in the aftermath of his side's amazing late fightback to steal the European Cup from Bayern Munich last night.

"I was stunned when we scored. I was starting to adjust to losing the game and I kept saying to myself: `Keep your dignity and accept it's not your year'.

"It's the anniversary of Sir Matt Busby's birthday and I think he was doing a lot of kicking up there. It was fantastic and I'm so proud of my players. They never give in."

United's winning goalscorer, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, insisted his side deserved their success despite chasing the game for almost 90 minutes. "We had to score after the pressure we'd had," he said. "Fortunately it was me. It's unbelievable and it's very difficult to describe how I feel just now but if anyone still wonders why I stayed at United they can see why here.

"The team spirit is just unbelievable. Everyone works together and is in this together."

Ferguson warned that his side's hunger for success would lead to more trophies in years to come. "The players won't rest on this because they're young. It's fantastic. They never give in so you always expect something from them. They are incredible human beings.

"You can talk about tactics all you like but that spirit is unbeatable at times. We got off to a bad start but kept at them and got our reward. In the last 20 minutes we got caught on the counter-attack but you've got to gamble in a European final."

Explaining the thinking behind playing David Beckham in a central midfield role, Ferguson said: " I felt we were a passing team so I put David in the middle because he is a great passer. I knew we would miss his crosses but I had to do it."

There was a consoling word for Roy Keane, United's captain, who missed last night's match through suspension. "I feel for Roy," Ferguson said. "I watched him walking round and he was gutted. He was pleased for the players but to take part in that was something special."

Franz Beckenbauer, the Bayern Munich president, was disconsolate. "Football can be so dreadful," he said. "It was a cruel defeat. We came so close. With a couple of seconds remaining the victory was ours but it was not to be.

"We were the dominant team in the last 20 minutes. We hit the crossbar and the post and we should have extended our lead. I'm not saying Manchester's victory was not deserved, not at all, but it is the most unfortunate defeat I've ever experienced."

Bayern's veteran midfielder Lothar Matthaus said: "It's bitter, sad and unbelievable. We're all disappointed. We had the match in control for 90 minutes."

The Bayern coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, swallowed his disappointment and paid a gracious tribute to United. "It could take days or even weeks to recover from this but I must say that Manchester are great champions," he said.

"Their football has been excellent this season. I think they have deserved to win the Champions' League."