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Sir Alex expects vintage United performance

Published: Tuesday 24 May 2011, 9.38CET
Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United FC's experience has "acquitted us well for European football" as he bids to make another entry in the history books at the age of 69.

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Published: Tuesday 24 May 2011, 9.38CET

Sir Alex expects vintage United performance

Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United FC's experience has "acquitted us well for European football" as he bids to make another entry in the history books at the age of 69.

Sir Alex Ferguson will consolidate his position as the second oldest coach to win a major UEFA club competition if Manchester United FC prevail against FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final, with the manager due to be 69 years and 148 days old at Wembley this Saturday. Only Raymond Goethals, who led Olympique de Marseille to glory in the 1992 final when he was closing in on 72, can be counted as an older final contender.

The Scotsman thinks that experience is now a major factor in his side's favour too. "We've gathered an experience over the last few years that has acquitted us well for European football now," he said. "We're far more patient away from home and we never used to be. European football does that and I think the players have learned that the concentration levels have to be very, very good because every club has a different way of playing and a different sense and style of the tempo in matches.

"Sometimes in a European game, you can be doing actually quite well and then the roof falls in, suddenly," added Sir Alex. "Many of our players are used to that now. They don't get caught out by sudden attacks against them the way that they used to years ago."

Having started his collection with a Scottish second-tier title won with Saint Mirren FC in 1977, the one-time Rangers FC forward has now won 47 trophies in all competitions. He made his big breakthrough in European terms with Aberdeen FC, leading them to an implausible 2-1 win against Real Madrid CF in the 1983 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final.

"It was a bit of a fairy tale with Aberdeen; players who had all grown up together, developed and matured together, young players together and all Scottish players," he recalled. "Real had some great players at the time and it was a great achievement and also, it whetted your appetite to do well in European football."

He started to add to his continental haul when he won the same competition with United, beating Barcelona in 1991. "That's always been the target: to do well in Europe," said the man who won the continent's top prize with United in 1999 and 2008. "We should have won the European Cup more times and although we've been in the Champions League final three times in four years, we should have done better in previous years."

Sir Alex can only hope his side make some amends for that on Saturday against the team that beat them 2-0 in the 2009 decider. He recalled: "We could have been a couple of goals up in the first 15 minutes but when we lost the goal, there was an indication of how Barcelona play today because [Lionel] Messi was a central striker on that particular day with [Samuel] Eto'o playing wide right and Thierry Henry wide left.

"Messi was playing through the middle until they scored and then they played without the central striker which now they do a lot, and they did in the semi-final against Real Madrid," added Sir Alex. "That was a kernel of the new Barcelona, their performance that night. Since then, they have improved massively as well – their performances have been outstanding so going into the game, they're a better team than when they beat us 2-0."

Oldest UEFA club competition winning coaches
71y 231d: Raymond Goethals (Olympique de Marseille, 1993 UEFA Champions League)
66y 142d: Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United FC, 2008 UEFA Champions League)
64y 85d: Sir Bobby Robson (FC Barcelona, 1997 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup)
64y 78d: Joe Fagan (Liverpool FC, 1984 European Champion Clubs' Cup)
63y 295d: Mircea Lucescu (FC Shakhtar Donetsk, 2009 UEFA Cup)

Oldest European Champion Clubs' Cup/UEFA Champions League winning coaches
71y 231d: Raymond Goethals (Olympique de Marseille, 1993 UEFA Champions League)
66y 142d: Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United FC, 2008 UEFA Champions League)
64y 78d: Joe Fagan (Liverpool FC, 1984 European Champion Clubs' Cup)
62y 124d: Bob Paisley (Liverpool FC, 1981 European Champion Clubs' Cup)
62y 50d: Béla Guttman* (SL Benfica, 1962 European Champion Clubs' Cup)

* DOB: 27/03/1900
Major UEFA club competition is defined as European Champion Clubs' Cup/UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League or UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Last updated: 07/12/13 3.51CET

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