Football / FA Cup Final: United's history men broaden their horizons: European crusade awaits the Double winners as they seek English influence to assist their foreign travels

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Chelsea. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . .4

THE trouble with history is that it's all in the past. No sooner had Manchester United completed the Double than Alex Ferguson was sizing up the Eiger they still have to scale before they attain true greatness. The European Cup.

Martin Edwards, the chairman, acclaimed the season just finished as 'the greatest the club has ever had', and with both League and Cup under key he has a reasonable argument. With United, though, above all others, emotion overrides reason when comparisons are made with the idols of the past, and Ferguson knows he has to go that extra mile before the most successful team to come out of Old Trafford are held in the same reverential esteem as Busby's pre- Munich Babes or the swashbuckling heroes of 1968.

A third successive championship and the European Cup would clinch it, and that new, stratospheric Double is his target for 1995. On Saturday night, in the hour of his greatest triumph, and amid clamorous celebration, he paused for sober cogitation and said: 'The important thing is always tomorrow. I hope to win the title again next year, and to do even better.'

The European Cup remained the Holy Grail, and pursuit of the most celebrated bauble of all demanded what he called a 'one-eyed approach'. To be pedantic, if he is going for the championship as well he will need bi-focals, but his meaning was clear. It boiled down to a question of priorities and, as was the case this season, the Coca-Cola Cup would be disregarded for the sake of the greater good.

Ferguson will need to be selective in his choice of personnel, as well as targets, if United are to make a better fist of Europe next time. It was no coincidence that Arsenal, whose team regularly include 10 Englishmen, prospered in the Cup-Winners' Cup while the champions, forced to juggle with seven 'foreigners', came an embarrassing cropper in the big one.

At full strength, United would surely have seen off the so-so Turks of Galatasaray, who sunk without trace in the Champions' League. Instead, the restriction on so-called 'non-nationals' saw them leave out Mark Hughes in Istanbul, with mortifying consequences.

Ferguson says he will not leave himself in such a position again, and the close-season signings with whom he plans to 'freshen up the squad' and 'keep them on their toes' will have to be English.

Sound thinking, but easier said than done. Finding an English centre-half to understudy, and eventually take over from, the ageing Steve Bruce should not be too difficult. Ditto the replacement of Bryan Robson and Mike Phelan, both released on free transfers.

The complications will arise in the forward positions. Ferguson fancies a new striker - Chris Sutton or Les Ferdinand - but is he really going to jettison Hughes, who has had a marvellous season, or Eric Cantona? No chance. The suggestion is that Hughes and Cantona could play in most of the League games, with an Englishman coming in for the European Cup.

Fine in theory (Milan made it work), it would fall down in practice on the unwillingness of any player worth his salt to put up with the drudgery of the Central League between European ties.

A perplexing problem, it will be interesting to see how the manager of the year sets about tackling it. For the moment, such things can wait. Ferguson is not a basker, but even this most restless of workaholics will allow himself - and thoroughly deserves - a period of celebratory R and R in which to savour a season of unprecedented achievement.

History will show that United won the League by a record margin and the FA Cup for an unsurpassed eighth time by a score matched only once these last 80 years - when Ron Atkinson's Reds beat Brighton 4-0 in a replay in 1983.

The controversy over the second penalty which broke Chelsea's hearts on Saturday should not obscure the fact that the better side won, and deservedly so. For most of the game it was too close to call, but Chelsea's Herculean efforts were starting to take their toll on tired legs when the first goal went in, and the result, if not the inequitable scoreline, would probably have been the same, regardless of the referee's harsh interpretation of what looked like a good, old- fashioned shoulder charge.

Credit where it is due. Neat, tidy and bristling with be-first determination, Chelsea had the better of the first half, and would not have been flattered had Gavin Peacock's 20-yarder found the back of the net, instead of the crossbar.

Disciplined in shape and application and yet full of running, their eager-beaver aggression was epitomised by Dennis Wise, whose performance was reminiscent of the 1988 final, when his obliteration of John Barnes was instrumental in Wimbledon's finest hour.

Wise was the dominant personality in midfield, Steve Clarke and Frank Sinclair held United's celebrated wingers in check, the Scandinavian centre-halves, Erland Johnsen and Jakob Kjeldbjerg, were pillars of resolution and Chelsea's nippy forwards were a real handful.

At half-time an upset was on. Or was it? Against a team as good as these double champions it is essential to profit from the ascendancy, if you are fortunate enough to get it. Their spirited pressing was impressive, but Chelsea failed to make it pay, and in the second half the roof fell in.

A fulminating shot from Giggs had United up and running and the final was transformed on the hour, when Eddie Newton scythed down Denis Irwin for Cantona to bury the first of two super-cool, almost disdainful, penalties.

Chelsea's heads never dropped but their shoulders sagged, and their previously tight, compact shape was suddenly stretched out, a tiring team becoming fatally compartmentalised when the second penalty laid them low.

Andrei Kanchelskis, matched for pace by Sinclair, took an optimistic tumble when the challenge came in, shoulder to shoulder, and was lucky to get a dodgy decision from David Elleray, who was some 30 yards behind the play.

Chelsea were outraged, but Cantona kept his head while plenty around him were losing theirs, and that was that. Poor Sinclair slipped on the wet turf, 25 yards out, to let in Hughes for what was the third goal in nine pell-mell minutes, and Paul Ince, whose industry was again of major significance, set up Brian McClair for a tap-in at the death.

Pluckily persistent, Chelsea would have had the goal which was the least they deserved but for two good, late saves at the expense of Peacock and John Spencer.

Glenn Hoddle was typically gracious in defeat, saying that while he disagreed with the second penalty, he accepted the decision because it had been 'honestly made'. It was a pity Chelsea's supporters lacked their manager's decency, booing the winners boorishly and subjecting them to a hail of missiles. A shame, in more ways than one. Theirs was the only blemish on a historic day.

Goals: Cantona pen (60) 0-1; Cantona pen (66) 0-2; Hughes (68) 0-3; McClair (90) 0-4.

Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Kharin; Clarke; Kjeldbjerg, Johnsen, Sinclair; Newton; Burley (Hoddle, 67), Wise; Peacock; Spencer, Stein (Cascarino, 78). Substitute not used: Hitchcock (gk).

Manchester United (4-2-4): Schmeichel; Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin (Sharpe, 85); Keane, Ince; Kanchelskis (McClair, 85), Hughes, Cantona, Giggs. Substitute not used: Walsh (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow, Middlesex).

(Photograph omitted)

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