Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Why Fergie isn't retiring just yet

So, Sir Alex Ferguson feels this is the best side he's ever assembled.

Winning a wonderful Double certainly provokes an amount of hyperbole but I'm not going to indulge in subjective comparisons with his previous Manchester United teams.

It would be akin to following those who continually try to relate Cristiano Ronaldo to George Best: different players in very different eras i.e. the debate is pointless.

However, I will grant that the Moscow final, to a large degree, erased my doubts about the Portuguese player's ability to 'produce' on the big stage.

He did that emphatically on Wednesday night.

Even someone of the excellence of Michael Essien looked overwhelmed by the opponent directly opposite him in the opening 45 minutes.

No, Ronaldo was terrific.

I didn't even get upset at his customary and occasional over-indulgence in those step-overs.

And, you know, I think it won't do him any harm that he missed his penalty in the shoot-out. It's an apt reminder, if he needed one, that he doesn't win every game on his own.

His colleagues have to carry him to success sometimes. Inspired by Ronaldo, and to only a slightly lesser degree by Owen Hargreaves on the opposite side of midfield, United really should have sown up the game by half time.

Two or three goals wouldn't have flattered them. Then again, the Chelsea revival inspired by Frank Lampard's somewhat fortunate equaliser just before the interval helped deliver a much better game than I anticipated during a scrappy opening period.

I'm not sure the watching world will have been utterly engrossed but it was certainly a better spectacle than last season's FA Cup final and, go on admit it, we all love the excitement of penalties.

The outcome did and does pose many questions though about both clubs.

Initially, as a talking point for '6-0-6', I'd been told that Ronaldo had immediately committed his future to Old Trafford. Later, I read the quotes.

He far from "committed". I think we'll see a nervous couple of weeks for United fans.

On the other hand, and despite the fact I've half-hinted for quite a while that Sir Alex might retire if he were to win another European Cup, the exhilaration he showed in the aftermath to his 20th major title at the club suggests he's not reaching for the slippers just yet.

Fergie remains fixated with 'catching' Liverpool. United are now just one behind their great rivals in terms of league championships and have moved to within two of the Merseysiders' European Cup wins.

They scent blood.

The immediate future for Chelsea is equally intriguing.

How will John Terry react to the shattering blow of his own penalty miss? Has Didier Drogba, and maybe one or two others, indulged in his last insincere exhibition of kissing the Chelsea badge? He's surely off elsewhere.

And what of poor devastated Avram Grant? Can he stand the indignity of a move back upstairs — if Roberto Mancini or someone else arrives as manager — or will he choose to exit altogether?

Not for the first time, I feel rather sorry for him.

Finally, honestly, I'm delighted and relieved that my fears of mayhem in Moscow proved unfounded but it was still a ridiculous choice of venue.

I left directly for the airport after the game with lasting memories of how Muscovites never smile and how their favourite word is 'nyet'.

Belfast Telegraph


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