Football: Keegan hails performance that 'lays ghosts' of past failure

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THE ENGLAND coach, Kevin Keegan, has hailed Manchester United's European Cup success over Juventus as a "tremendous fillip for English football".

Keegan believes the Red Devils' 3-2 semi-final, second-leg triumph in Turin on Wednesday has "laid all the ghosts" after years of underachieving by English clubs on the Continent.

Keegan did not witness at first hand United's memorable comeback from 2-0 down after 10 minutes as he was taking charge of Fulham's Second Division match with Millwall at Craven Cottage. But he admitted to feeling elated after finding out the outcome of the semi-final in Italy.

"It was a great performance," Keegan said. "To go to Italy where they have not been successful in the past, to come up against the pedigree of side they were facing and to win was magnificent.

"What United's win does is lay all the ghosts that people talk about regarding English football and how we have done in Europe. People go on about the ban and all the years we missed, and then there was the period when the Scots, Irish and Welsh players couldn't play because of the rules.

"It meant Manchester United were winning the [Premier] League with one team and then having to play a very weakened side in Europe because of the foreigners rule. Now every team takes part on merit and they have proved to be worthy. It is terrific. It gives us all a boost and a big fillip."

Sir Bobby Charlton, who captained United to their previous European Cup win back in 1968 and is now a director of the club, said he hopes their manager, Alex Ferguson, can end their long wait to lift the trophy again. He claims that would be just reward for Ferguson, who he regards as the best motivator in the game. "Alex is a magical manager, he really is," Sir Bobby said. "He is the greatest motivator there's ever been and that I know of.

"We've got to win it now. We've done the hard part and got through."

The Italian press were generous in their praise of Juve's conquerors. Tuttosport newspaper wrote: "An extraordinary Manchester United has knocked Juventus out of the European Cup semi-finals. As arrogant as Ferguson may be, his team are splendid and divine in equal measure. And after the suffering of their 1-1 draw in the first leg, they put on a majestic performance in Turin. They deserved to win, thanks to the superb skill of Cole, who produced a truly wonderful display of football."

Tuttosport also took time to criticise a key Juventus player: "On its most important night of the season, Carlo Ancelotti's team was betrayed by the very player who should have given them that extra gear. That player is called Zinedine Zidane. The World Cup and 1998 Golden Ball winner last night was unrecognisable, irritating, useless. Zidane doesn't like Turin? He misses the sea? He'd prefer Barcelona or Marseilles? He can go where he likes, so long as he goes. He doesn't deserve to stay."

Corriere dello Sport took a similar line: "Sport is also about weighing up the strengths on both sides and accepting the result. There was no contest between Juve and Manchester on any level; it's only honest to admit that and to put our hands together for the team who pulled off the feat of the year. The English won it in every corner of the pitch; only they could have kept believing after the ephemeral show by Inzaghi."

The Juventus midfielder and France's World Cup-winning captain, Didier Deschamps, admitted: "United played superbly. We did well in the first 20 minutes but after that we really suffered and they deserved to win. We should have won the away leg but at 2-0 up here we should have done the hardest part."