Tuesday 23 May 2017

Just 'fantastic' as Ferguson savours the taste of victory

Ian Herbert

Alex Ferguson last night expressed his disbelief that he finally stands on the brink of overhauling Liverpool's record 18 titles to become "the most successful team in the country in terms of championship victories".

Manchester United's 2-1 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford yesterday leaves Ferguson needing only a point from his side's last two league matches and he disclosed that his players will this week begin working on how to overcome Barcelona in the Champions League final, with Carlo Ancelotti conceding that a 19th championship is heading to Old Trafford.

"It's fantastic being the most successful team," said Ferguson, whose side had only seven championship victories to their name when he arrived in November, 1986.

"After that one (Ferguson's first) in 1992, the door opened to us. It is an incredible achievement."

He would "not have believed" overtaking Liverpool, he added. Ferguson admitted to some anxiety: "All those poor souls in the stands biting their nails and having a heart attack and I was one of them," he said, grinning, while remaining pragmatic ahead of the away trip to Blackburn on Saturday, with Blackpool at Old Trafford a week later: "You have to do your job."

But with Chelsea needing all three points, Ferguson knew from the moment of Javier Hernandez's goal after 36 seconds that he was on the way to the 12th title of nearly 25 years at the United helm.

Ancelotti insisted that he retained some hope of staying at Stamford Bridge, despite the sense that the meeting he will have with chief executive Ron Gourlay after the end of the league campaign will be his last.

"You know my position. I have another year of contract. I would like to stay, but the club will take a decision at the end of the season. I accept the decision. We wait and see. We will arrange a meeting after the end of the season," he said.

Ancelotti said he did not know Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's opinion of the season, but he admitted the club could have done better.

He added: "I don't know what the owner thinks about the season but in my opinion we could have done better.

"I am honest to say that Chelsea didn't do its best this season, but sometimes that can happen. Last season we had a fantastic season, this year it was a little bit different."

Asked whether he favoured returning to his native Italy, the Chelsea coach said he would one day -- but has found England very much to his liking.

He said: "Italy is my country and I cannot say I don't want to come back to Italy -- I will come back to Italy one day as I love my country.

"But in the last two years I have found a fantastic atmosphere in football, a fantastic country, and I respect the people.

"There is no violence in the stadium, the stadiums are full and I would like to stay here for these reasons."

Criticism

Ancelotti has come in for criticism for relying on players who have been stalwarts since Jose Mourinho's time -- nine of the starting XI against United had played under Mourinho four years ago -- but he claimed there was no need to completely shake up the squad.

"This year we bought (David) Luiz, Ramires and Fernando Torres who are all fantastic players and this was enough for the future," he said.

"I don't think this team needs to have a lot of movement and now is not the right time."

The Chelsea manager added that the better team had won yesterday. "United were really strong today and it was hard for us to come back. When a team plays better than you, you have to accept it. Manchester United deserved to win today, so there is no disappointment. We were not at our best."

He also conceded that United deserved to succeed Chelsea as Premier League champions. "They only need one point so they are comfortable to win the title, they deserve to win the title and we have to accept it," he said.

"We have to do our best in the last two games to try and finish in second place." (© Independent News Service)

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