Watching Sir Alex Ferguson celebrate Manchester United’s imperious Champions League semi-final demolition of Schalke was the defining moment of yet another masterclass from the greatest football manager the world has ever seen.
Forget the over-hyped, sometimes hysterical, mental jousting of Fergie’s good friend Jose Mourinho. The no-nonsense Glaswegian is the real deal. Not just because he is a tactical genius who knows how to win football matches. But his unquenchable desire to succeed burns as brightly as ever.
As his former midfield general Gordon Strachan concluded after a crushing 6-1 aggregate win over the German outfit that brushed aside defending champions Inter Milan in the previous round: “Sir Alex is the best sports psychologist I’ve ever met in my life.'”
Fergie made an unprecedented nine changes from the semi-final first leg in Schalke eight days ago because he knows his squad is the strongest in Europe. But he is honest enough to admit: “I didn’t sleep last night thinking about it. And I’m glad we’re vindicated.”
Barca boss Pep Guardiola watched in awe from the South Stand as United wrapped up what turned out to be the most one-sided semi-final in Champions League history with a comfortable 4-1 margin on the night to add to last week’s devastating 2-0 win in Germany.
In the year that ends with Fergie celebrating his 70th birthday, it was rejuvenating for the Old Trafford faithful to hear their leader to declare: “I’ve said many times we should have done better in Europe and now we’re getting closer to where we should be.”
There was no mistaking the genuine glee at taking United to their their third final in four seasons. And the Boss clearly relishes the challenge of beating the team many are upholding as the game’s greatest ever club side with arguably the greatest player in Lionel Messi. “It’s a pleasure to watch them play. Their semi-final was unfortunate.”
Intriguingly both United and Barcelona became Champions of Europe for the first time at Wembley – the Catalans in 1992 and the Busby Babes in 1968. “This club has created destiny many times and we can do it again,” says Fergie. But first the ultimate professional is planning Sunday Premier League crunch contest against defending champions Chelsea at Old Trafford. And we all know that will be a much tougher contest than tonight’s demolition of Schalke.