Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ferguson trusts Utd skill to overcome Chelsea brawn (SN)

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson insisted on Tuesday that his team's skill and style will be more than a match for the power and brawn of Champions League final opponents Chelsea.

The two best teams in England meet at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium on Wednesday with an intriguing clash of styles on offer for the neutral.

United's game is based on slick passing and rapier-like attacking from all angles while Chelsea, marshalled by the burly Didier Drogba, are all about power, force and squeezing the life out of opponents.

But Ferguson said he has no plans to change his game to reflect the challenge presented by the Londoners, instead trusting his players to simply prove too good.

“I think tactics will come into a good part of it. Chelsea are a physically stronger team than most of the Premier League,” he said.

“They play on that strength but we don't need to match that. We have to play on our main strengths, which is our passing and creating openings.

“We're good at that. I don't think we have to change the way we play. (But) we have to pay attention to players like Drogba and (Michael) Ballack who are big strong lads.”

Another issue is the difference in experience. Despite a team loaded with internationals, United are the younger and less tried and tested of the two squads.

While Chelsea have eight players who have already played in a European Cup final, United have only five and one of the most experienced of those, Gary Neville, is almost certain to play no part having missed the entire season through injury.

“I trust my players. Maybe they don't have the overall experience of Chelsea but they've got the nerve and the courage,” insisted Ferguson.

He was in relaxed and cheerful mood ahead of what will be his fourth European final as a manager and he turned the heat up on Chelsea boss Avram Grant, for whom this is his first experience at this level.

“I'm relaxed, it's not as if it's my first European final, it's my fourth final,” he said.

“I've got to use my experience and hopefully composure to help everyone else.”

Ferguson first led Aberdeen to the European Cup Winners' Cup crown in 1983, beating Real Madrid in the final, and then eight years later he won the same competition with United, at the expense of Barcelona.

And nine years ago his United team beat Bayern Munich to lift the biggest title of all, the Champions League.

Grant is a novice in comparison with four Israeli titles and five Israeli cups his only silverware.

But Fergie believes the Israeli will cope with the pressure on Wednesday.

“I went to my first final against Real Madrid and (then coach) Alfredo di Stefano and I didn't shrivel,” he said.

“I went there with a bottle of whiskey and thanked him for being there with us.

“It's how you approach a European final and it will be the same for Avram Grant. It's a big moment and you've got to relish it.

“But I think it's a very balanced European final.”

Last year the two sides met in the FA Cup final with Drogba scoring the only goal of the game deep into extra-time to give the Londoners the trophy.

But Ferguson believes his United side, who have won the last two Premier League titles ahead of Chelsea, are better equipped this year.

“Mainly we're fresher, we're much fitter (this year). We've had 10 days preparation and that's helped us, although it's the same for Chelsea,” he added.

“Last year we played so many games with the same 10-12 players, we had no reserves to change players.

“That will make the difference because sometimes a game is won by your substitutions.”

Back in 1999 that certainly was the case as Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came off the bench to sink Bayern deep into injury time.

This time around Fergie can pick seven players on the bench, which means he will have to disappoint four of his first team squad, but he is confident he will have footballers who can make a difference ready to come on.

“I hope I pick the right substitutes and if I have to use them, I hope they make an impact,” he concluded.


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