Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF) had retired from football after managing Manchester United to a 20th Premier League title in the year 2013. During his 26 years with Manchester United he had won 13th Premier League, 5 FA Cup , 4 League Cup , 10 FA Community Shield, 1 UEFA Super Cup , 1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup , 1 Intercontinental Cup , 1 FIFA Club World Cup , and 2 UEFA Champion League. He had taken an underachieving team to create a dynasty in 90’s and 2000. He also continues the legacy that had been created by Sir Matt Busby on nurturing young player from Manchester United and abroad to become a world class player such as David Beckham , Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Christiano Ronaldo. For all his record in the domestic competition, they are one record that will be his black mark the 2 UEFA Champion League. In his 26 years in charge, he had only won 2 European Cup and he also had failed to emulate Bob Paisley record of winning 3 European Title with some team.
The first thing although he had been with Manchester United team since 1986, United and other English teams only be allowed to participate in European Competition starting from 1990 after UEFA had lifted the ban on English team due to Heysel tragedy. Like they did in the past where they become the first English team to won the UEFA European Cup, in this situation they had become the first English team to won a European trophy after the ban when they had won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1991 by beating Barcelona 2-1 in the final and subsequently winning the UEFA Super Cup by beating Red Star Belgrade in the final. Their journey to the UEFA Champion League only started in 1993 when they had won the title in that year after 26 years has last they had won it in 1967.
Although SAF had only won this competition twice but they are some games if the circumstances had been supportive of him and his team he may have competed in more final or add to his tally of European Cup medal and today we will look at this games.
1996-1997 UEFA Champion League
United missed several opportunities in the return leg against Borussia Dortmund.
After missed out the Champion League in 1995 and before 2014 this is the only time that Manchester United had missed out the Champion League, they had been the runner up in their group where they are drawn against Marcello Lippi Juventus and suffered their first home defeat against Fenerbahce in the group stages. In the quarter-final, they had been drawn against FC Porto and they had beaten the Portugal team comprehensively with a 4-0 scoreline in the first leg at Old Trafford and drew with them 0-0 in the return leg in Portugal. Manchester United were favorites to progress to the final when they had been drawn against eventual winner Borussia Dortmund but the thing did not turn as expected as Borussia Dortmund had beaten them home and away 2-0 aggregate. Manchester United in the return leg at Old Trafford had been wasteful with Andy Cole and Eric Cantona had missed glorious chance after chances to win the game. If they had been clinical at that time, SAF may well on his first UCL final with United earlier than 1999.
1999-2000 UEFA Champion League
Knocked Out by Real Madrid.
In this season, they are the defending champion after winning the UCL in 1999 and completed their treble. With some player like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Dwight Yorke, Jaap Stam , and much more they had been the favorites to achieve the treble again. They had been impressive the second-round group stages as they had become the champion of their group that had Gabriel Batistuta Fiorentina in it. They had been drawn against Real Madrid in the quarter-final whom can be considered as the least impressive Real Madrid team since they had won the UCL in 1998. In the first leg, Manchester United had tried to play a defensive game and was nearly punished if not for the heroic effort of goalkeeper Mark Bosnich. In the return leg, United need to win their game and thing take a setback when Roy Keane had scored an own goal to give Real Madrid the crucial away goal. United need to score 2 more to progress to the semi-final but Raul brilliant finishing and Fernando Redondo brilliant backheel had given Real Madrid a 3-0 score line and although United had scored 2 late goals to make the scoreline more respectable to 3-2. In the end, this is the game that led SAF to change his tactic in European to be more defensive and adapt a patient games since then. This game had been the turning point of this European games with MU. Maybe if United had been braver and played their usual game there will be able to knock out Real Madrid and maybe if Roy Keane had not scored the own goal to hand the initiative to Madrid thing will be different in this game.
2001-2002 UEFA Champion League.
Bayern Leverkusen crushed Fergie dream of playing the final against Real Madrid at Hampden Park.
With the additional of Juan Sebastian Veron and prolific Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy, World Cup winner goalkeeper Fabian Barthez and defender Laurent Blanc, United had knocked out the impressive Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter-final whom had defeated United in first round group stages and defeated another English team Arsenal in the second round of the group stage. Deportivo manager Javier Irureta had arrogantly claimed that Liverpool was a better side than United and in the end, United had won both leg 2-0 in Spain and winning 3-2 in England to set up a semi-final against Bayern Leverkusen who had knocked out Liverpool in the quarter-final. United were favorites in this tie but with a late goal from Oliver Neuville in the first leg in England, the scoreline had been 2-2 but United was still favorite to progress to the final to set up a dream final against Real Madrid in Hampden Park as Real Madrid had knocked out Barcelona in another semi-final games. United had taken the lead with Roy Keane goal only to be equalized by Oliver Neuville again in the end of first half. In the second half United had attacked the Leverkusen goal and again like in 1997 semi-final against Borussia Dortmund they had missed chances and some brilliant goal line clearance denied SAF hope to compete in the final in his hometown against Real Madrid.
In the next part, we will see 4 more games where referee decision, tactical mistakes, again some wasteful opportunities, and the superior opponent had denied SAF and United to add more European medal. This is some of the game where if United had been more brave, clinical in front of goal and defensively astute then the thing will be different for SAF in term of UCL medal.