Sir Alex determined to win second Champs League
Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted winning the Champions League for a second time remains his one unfulfilled ambition as Manchester United manager.
Ferguson has learned Sporting Libson, Roma and Dynamo Kiev will be the Red Devils group phase opponents in this season's competition as they look to go one better than last year's semi-final appearance.
The defeat to AC Milan was United's third at the same stage under Ferguson, a record which irritates the Scot given his belief that a club the size of his own should have more than just the two triumphs in European football's most prestigious club competition.
And, in an exclusive interview with Setanta Sports, Ferguson confirmed that having added a ninth Premier League to his five FA Cups, two League Cups and European Cup Winners' Cup successes, adding another Champions League to the one his side won so thrillingly in 1999 is his number one remaining aim.
'Two European Cups are not enough for Manchester United,' he said. 'Winning another is the one remaining great ambition. It has to be.
'You see all the great names on the trophy who have won it numerous times but none of them are greater than us.
'We have been in the semi-finals quite a few times but only reached one final. We have to improve on that record.'
Ferguson was in reflective mood as he looked ahead to tomorrow's encounter with Sunderland, a game which marks the return of former captain Roy Keane for the first time on a competitive level since he left Old Trafford in 2005.
Contrary to popular opinion, Ferguson and Keane remain close.
The United boss continues to believe the former midfielder is the most influential player he has ever worked with and Keane often texts his old manager, a significant event for a man who rarely handed out his telephone number to team-mates.
'Roy certainly has the wherewithall to be a top-class manager,' said Ferguson.
'I get plenty of texts off him about players but I don't tend to offer advice, other than over one or two small things.
'The main point is if he has the intelligence and the determination, he can survive the early part because that is the hardest.
'Some people can't make decisions. Roy can. He is a good decision maker.'
Given the superb start Keane has enjoyed in management, there are many now prediciting he will one day follow Ferguson into the Old Trafford hot-seat.
As he approaches an incredible 21 years at the helm, longer - he acknowledges - than some of the players he is currently working with have been alive, Ferguson's enthusiasm and drive remain as strong as ever.
So, while the Champions League may represent something of a holy grail, should the proud Glaswegian eventually reach it, there is no guarantee it will be the trigger for immediate retirement.
'It is a difficult one,' said the 65-year-old. 'The thing is I am enjoying myself. If we won the Champions League, I would probably enjoy it even more.
'My time to go will be dictated to by my energy levels and my health. It is a fact of life that once you get into your 60s you are no longer in control of these things.'
In an earnest interview with Des Lynam, Ferguson was happy to explode a few myths, including his use of the infamous 'hairdryer treatment' on players and his liking for red wine.
'It is overplayed,' he said. 'I have never had a drink at the training ground in my life.'
Ferguson also admitted he would have found it difficult to carry on had he not been caught by the racing bug, which helped take away some of the more obsessive elements of his approach to the job and allowed him to delegate more of the arduous tasks.
Judging by a relaxed mood which has been in evidence for the best part of two years now, Ferguson has achieved enough to be 100% sure his approach to the job is the right one.
With the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Anderson on his books, there is more exciting young talent at Old Trafford than possibly since Sir Matt Busby first brought through his Babes.
And, while no retirement date has been set, Ferguson is well on the way to fulfilling the one promise he is willing to make about his departure.
'When I eventually go, I want to leave a really good team,' he said.
'Manchester United is a great club. It deserves my concentration to make sure whoever does take over inherits a good team. That is important to me.'