Ferguson: 'Beating Milan is a step forward'

Milan and Manchester are similar cities: northern, industrial, defiantly at odds with their capitals and possessed of an unmistakable style.

Milan are a club Manchester United have long tried to match but until now have never quite overtaken. They were the men that, in the wake of the Munich disaster, crushed any romantic thoughts that Matt Busby's wrecked team might reach a European Cup final. United, however, might have done better had the Football Association allowed Bobby Charlton to play in the second leg of the 1958 semi-final, rather than call him up for a Home International. Eleven years later, in another European Cup semi-final, Milan effectively brought the Busby years to an end with a display of grim defence that defied the combined talents of Best, Law and Charlton.

Twice they have overcome Sir Alex Ferguson's teams. In 2005 they managed it without breaking sweat and in a third semi-final, two years later, not even a 3-2 victory at Old Trafford was sufficient protection against a perfect storm unleashed at San Siro.

"That is why it was a big thing for us to win the first leg in Milan," Ferguson said yesterday. "I was delighted with it because, historically, we were playing against one of the best European teams of all time.

"Without doubt, it was a landmark victory for us. I can't help thinking it was a really, really important night for us in terms of our development. It was a psychological thing for us to go there and win."

Ferguson famously said his greatest achievement at Old Trafford was "knocking Liverpool off their perch". But overhauling Milan, who were winning back-to-back European Cups in 1989-90 while Ferguson was reacting to losing the Manchester derby by putting his head under a pillow, would count as a similar mountain climbed, although it has taken longer. "Having watched the Milan derby, there is a sense that [Italian] football is better now," he said. "That's why beating Milan would be such a step forward."

His opposite number, Leonardo (below), said that the first leg "could have gone a thousand ways". Because of Wayne Rooney, it went United's and it is hard to think of reasons for Milanese confidence, other than historical superiority. When asked what he would do were he in Leonardo's position, a smile played on Ferguson's lips. He knows United have never thrown away a first-leg victory when the second leg has been at Old Trafford, not even to Milan.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food