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It is impossible to escape the shadow of history when it comes to FC Barcelona, Manchester United FC and Wembley, but Sir Alex Ferguson would have it no other way as he plots a fourth European title for his newly crowned English champions on Saturday night.
The Scot has already rewritten the record books with his achievements with United, who have just overtaken Liverpool FC with a 19th domestic title, but he is not a man to forget when things go wrong either. As he reminded the assembled press at Wembley on Friday, he tends to make amends for past setbacks – such as the 4-0 loss at FC Barcelona in 1994 which set United on a learning curve concluding with their 1999 UEFA Champions League final triumph against FC Bayern München back at the Camp Nou – and he is confident this United team will avoid a repeat of their disappointment against the Azulgrana two years ago in Rome.
Recalling that 2-0 final defeat, Sir Alex said: "We were disappointed we lost the game but it isn't a matter of revenge it is about our own personal pride. We are very focused this time and our preparation has been better. I think we maybe made one or two mistakes last time but not this time."
Ferguson found various reasons for confidence, citing Wayne Rooney's "progress as a player in Europe" since 2009, the experience of his rock-solid central defensive pairing of Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand, and the "sharpness" that Antonio Valencia has brought since returning from injury. He also contemplated the potential impact of Javier Hernández, likely to start in United's attack: "He has got the temperament, the speed, the movement: all the things necessary."
For United this is a third final in four years while Barcelona are seeking a third UEFA Champions League success in six seasons – and, like United, a fourth European Champion Clubs' Cup at the place where they won their first. These two famous teams are enjoying golden eras in Europe and Sir Alex believes the stage is set for a classic.
"The success both teams have had in the last decade has been enormous," he said. "
It could be the best final of the decade – the attraction of two great teams with a great history is obvious, it is an appealing final in terms of what could happen. There could be a lot of goals, a lot of excitement and there will be a lot of good football I'm sure. It is set up, the platform is there and let's hope it turns out that way."
His counterpart, Josep Guardiola, was equally hopeful. "When you play in the final and both teams want to win and both teams want to play, and both respect the ball and want to attack, for the rest of the world I imagine it will be a good final."
The Barcelona coach – whom Sir Alex once considered signing before he left Camp Nou for Italy – believes his team will have to play better at Wembley than they did in Rome to overcome the English champions. "
We have to do some things differently compared to 2009 in terms of intensity at different stages of the match," he said, perhaps mindful of the opening ten minutes in 2009 when United enjoyed an early ascendancy before Samuel Eto'o's goal.
Guardiola is expected to welcome back captain Carles Puyol for the first time since the semi-final second leg against Real Madrid CF; he could feature at left-back with Javier Mascherano alongside Gerard Piqué in central defence, although Éric Abidal is also available. "They are both ready physically and mentally. I am delighted they are both back, we had one knee injury [Puyol], we had a liver tumour [Abidal] so to have them back would be a symbol of our desire to be champions again."
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