Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Edwin van der Sar's penalty shoot-out heroics as “no accident” after the Manchester United goalkeeper clinched the Champions League trophy with his stop from Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka.
Ferguson also acknowledged that the Dutchman had been one of the cornerstones of the club's revival over the last couple of seasons.
“As I said before one of the most difficult jobs we have had at this club was replacing Peter Schmeichel,” Ferguson said.
“Three years ago we did that with Edwin and you can see the marked improvement in our defensive performance since then.
“It was not an accident that he made that save. When it comes to the last penalty it requires great experience and patience to wait that fraction of a second.”
Van der Sar admitted he had spent much of his long career hoping to be at the centre of such a dramatic finale to a crucial match.
“It is one of the benefits of having a long career that I've been through a certain amount of things,” said the 37-year-old, who will head off after a short break to join up with the Dutch squad as they prepare for the Euro 2008 finals and bid to add to the one won by the 1988 team.
“I won a final with Ajax in 1995 then we lost one on penalties. It is always nice to win the first one but to win it yourself – that is something I've strived for my whole career.
“To get a decisive moment, to get that final moment when you win the game, that is fantastic and I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to come to United.”
Van der Sar went on to tease Ferguson over why he had taken so long to sign a goalkeeper – he bought him from Premiership rivals Fulham for a reported fee of 2million pounds – he had long admired.
“I sometimes ask why it did not happen sooner, but never mind. I've got two (Premier League) titles, the Champions League tonight and we are not finished yet.”
Van der Sar – who has won over 120 caps for his country – admitted Manchester United had enjoyed a massive slice of luck when Terry, needing to convert his side's fifth penalty to claim the trophy, slipped and sent his shot wide.
“We were lucky he slipped, otherwise someone else would be sitting here tonight,” the goalkeeper admitted.
“But when it came to the final penalty I knew where he (Anelka) was going, I felt it.”
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