Sir Alex Ferguson said the UEFA Champions League is "the biggest competition in the world" as his boundless enthusiasm for football shone through after the 11th Elite Club Coaches Forum in Nyon.
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Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson said the UEFA Champions League "lights [him] up" and is "the biggest competition in the world" as his boundless enthusiasm for football shone through after the 11th Elite Club Coaches Forum on Friday.
He may have already been crowned European champion twice, but it was clear Sir Alex's delight at the prospect of another group stage adventure had not been dimmed by success. "I think it's the biggest competition in the world now, I really do," he said. "You have all the best players from South America and Europe, and the great clubs that I've always dreamed about.
"When I was starting out as a coach at Aberdeen [FC], I dreamed that one day I would be playing Real Madrid [CF] and [FC] Barcelona, [FC] Internazionale [Milano] and AC Milan, and now we've got them all in one pot," said Sir Alex, one of a host of top bosses invited to UEFA's headquarters in Nyon for the two-day forum.
Historically great teams
"When the draw is made you say, 'Phew, thank goodness we didn't get them', because there are so many historically great teams. And that's the thing for me, that's the sparkle of it – the thing that lights me up is that all these great teams in the history of the game are all there, all trying to win the biggest competition in football."
VfL Wolfsburg, Beşiktaş JK and PFC CSKA Moskva will be hoping to deny Sir Alex's side safe passage through the group stage as United embark on their quest to make amends for their defeat by Barcelona in last season's final. The eye-catching football of Barcelona, the champions, was the focus of debate. UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh revealed that the coaches had all agreed that the Blaugrana blueprint was unique for that club.
"They were unanimous on the fact that you shouldn't try to copy Barcelona. That's a history that Rinus Michels started, the whole Dutch link, and over the years the culture of that club has created the way they play," said Roxburgh, who added that the coaches felt time was a vital component in forging a club's character. "The key word they used was continuity. The continuity of a club's culture, of a coach's philosophy. If you're changing the coach every five minutes, then you're unlikely to get that kind of development."
Current trends in the game were also on the agenda while proposed innovations were examined, including a presentation on the proposal to have two additional assistant referees, one behind each goal. A trial of this initiative will be carried out during the group stage of the inaugural UEFA Europa League this season, and Sir Alex believes it is a step forward.
"It's interesting. If, for instance, there's a counterattack, the referee can't keep up with some of the players of today," said Sir Alex. "As soon as they get into the penalty box, someone else can help – it's an absolute advantage for the referee," said Sir Alex, who added his weight of support for the idea to that of other leading coaches. "We've all been [talking] for years and years about technology and improving the things that we're talking about, whether the ball was over the line, whether it was a penalty or not. At least there's progress here, and progress is important. I think we should try it."