Sunday 25 February 2018

Alex the great will want more

Alan Hansen

When Liverpool beat QPR to lift our 18th League Championship in 1990, nobody mentioned Manchester United.

Nobody mentioned how many titles we had won, or how far ahead we were. None of us thought we would ever stop winning. We certainly didn't think anyone would beat that record, not in our lifetime. We never thought anyone could knock us off our perch.

I remember being asked in an interview about my ambitions for the future straight after lifting the trophy in front of the Kop.

I simply said that I hoped I played 13 games the following season, so that I would be given another championship medal. That was the mentality: the title was ours that year, and would be the next year, too.

The idea of anyone catching us was unthinkable, let alone Manchester United. They were not even a factor. We were light years ahead -- 18 to their seven -- though nobody would have thought to mention the numbers.

It did not matter how many they had to win. We would just get further ahead. Anyone with affection for Liverpool will find the sight of Nemanja Vidic lifting the Premier League trophy -- most likely at Blackburn on Saturday -- hard to bear.

That is testament to how intense the rivalry between Manchester and Merseyside is. Just as United's fans found it hard to give Liverpool credit when we were the pre-eminent force, there will be little credit where it is due for Ferguson's achievement from Anfield.

Instead, Liverpool's fans will concentrate on the one record they have left: five European Cup triumphs to United's three. And even that may be reduced by the end of the month.

There is scant solace for Liverpool supporters this morning.

Kenny Dalglish has overseen a remarkable transformation in the club's fortunes, but it is unrealistic to suggest they are capable of challenging, let alone beating, United to the title next season.

Even worse, there is no prospect of Ferguson retiring any time soon. When he does, eventually, decide to go, it will be a considerable relief to everyone else in the Premier League, but there is no reason he should do so now.

He will not see anything to suggest he will not be as successful next season as he was this. He will not want to stop at 19. He will be after 20, 21 and 22.

Only an outstanding team will be able to stop him doing that.

Looking at Chelsea at Old Trafford, I am not sure where they go from here. Arsenal need to invest heavily. Liverpool are not yet ready.

That leaves only Manchester City. They are the danger. And what a challenge that is for Ferguson, to see off the world's richest club on his doorstep in his 71st year.

He would never get bored of winning titles, but that is the sort of task that he will relish. If Sheikh Mansour keeps investing, City will get there sooner or later. Alex will love the chance to keep his noisy neighbours quiet. But he will know that, even if United add a fourth Champions League to their 19th league title, there is much work to be done this summer.


Their performance yesterday was one of champions, but they have looked anything but at times this season. Indeed, so poor were they away from home in the middle of the campaign that you wondered if a watershed was looming, if a moment that even Ferguson could not stave off was on its way.

Even with a league title under his belt, he has four, maybe five, players that he will soon need to replace. Ryan Giggs has been magnificent this season, but Paul Scholes started the year looking like the most technically accomplished midfielder in the league.

Father Time has caught him. He will catch Giggs, too, eventually. Together with Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Ferguson needs to replace the irreplaceable.

It was the same at Liverpool in 1990. We were not as good as the 1988 side.

Our average age was much higher than previous teams. United are not what they were three years ago. They have come back to the pack. That, perhaps, is the only solace for Anfield.

Irish Independent

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