Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Manchester United boss Ferguson still the master

GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - APRIL 26: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between FC Schalke 04 and Manchester United at Veltins Arena on April 26, 2011 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)
GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - APRIL 26: Ryan Giggs of Manchester United scores the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between FC Schalke 04 and Manchester United at Veltins Arena on April 26, 2011 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)
GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - APRIL 26: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United sits during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between FC Schalke 04 and Manchester United at Veltins Arena on April 26, 2011 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

It was supposed to be the season in which the so-called 'noisy neighbours' finally rose up to usher Sir Alex Ferguson into retirement.

Yet just 10 days after City trampled his troops to reach the FA Cup final at their expense, Ferguson stands on the brink of arguably his greatest triumph.

Tonight, Ferguson did more than set a foot in his fourth Champions League final. He drove a tank there, drowning out the noisy neighbours in the process.

Sure, Schalke, who lest we forget had put seven past Inter Milan over two legs in the quarter-final, were pretty dismal.

But it was Ferguson's mastery of continental competition which once again won the day as his side swatted the Germans in emphatic style.

It should have been more - much more. If it was not for the heroics of Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, United would have run up a cricket score.

On tonight's evidence, Ferguson could send out a bunch of youth-team players for the second leg at Old Trafford and still be guaranteed to cruise into the final.

The greatest surprise perhaps is not that United turned a potentially tough Champions League semi-final into a stroll in the sun.

It is that we continue to be surprised by the genius of Sir Alex Ferguson when it comes to the competition which clearly stirs him the most.

That we question, even for a moment, Ferguson's personnel decisions such as the one which dispensed with the frivolity of Nani in favour of the work ethic of Park Ji-Sung.

It is in those tiny and some would say almost inconsequential details where Ferguson gains the kinds of advantages which add up to nights of utter dominance such as this.

You would not put it past Ferguson to have many more up his sleeve before the 'noisy neighbours' get to let their cheque books do the talking.

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