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May 20, 2008

Fergie wants to add glory to Man Utd tradition

MOSCOW, May 20 (Reuters) - Alex Ferguson said he owed it to the tradition of Manchester United to overcome Chelsea on Wednesday, half a century after his club blazed the trail that now culminates in the first all-English Champions League final.

Ferguson, in charge of United for 22 years, has always been full of respect for those who went before him and said the presence of some survivors from the 1958 Munich air disaster at the game would add further poignancy to the occasion.

'We are proud to have followed in those footsteps,' he told a news conference at the Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday.

'There's no doubt in my mind that the real start of this great club was Sir Matt (Busby). It was ironic that it was Chelsea who should have been England's first entry to the European Cup but the FA didn't want them to go in.

'But Sir Matt had the courage and the vision and you've seen where English football has progressed because of that, so I'm proud of that history and we won't let them down.'

For all that tradition, however, United's record of two European Cups (1968 and 1999) and one Cup Winners' Cup (1991) looks feeble alongside the bulging cabinets of European gioants like Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool.

It is a situation Ferguson is all too aware of.

'Our history is an illustrious one but there is a weakness in terms of the number of European trophies we've won,' he said. 'I hope we can go some way towards making that better tomorrow night.'

Ferguson appeared unusually laid back at the packed news conference, a condition at odds with his usual demeanour in front of the media, and seemed to be revelling in the occasion.

'I feel good, I'm relaxed -- I should be, this is my fourth European final -- two Cup Winners' Cups and two Champions League,' he said, adding Aberdeen's shock 1983 Cup Winners' Cup victory over Real Madrid to his three outings with United.

'I've got experience and, hopefully, the composure to help everyone else.'

Asked, though, if that would be a trump card in his battle with Chelsea manager Avram Grant, who has never been close to a game of such magnitude, Ferguson was less strident.

'My first final was against Real Madrid and (coach) Alfredo di Stefano. I didn't shrivel, I went up and handed them my bottle of whisky, so it's how you approach things.'

Looking ahead to the game, Ferguson claimed not to realise how poor his record was against Chelsea in recent years with only two wins in 14 games across all competitions.

'You mention the record, it's a bad one, but I don't pay attention to those and I back the players to do a job and trust them,' he said.

'Our (overall) record this season and last season demands respect, our consistency in the last two seasons warrants that.'

Ferguson accepted Chelsea had the edge on power but backed his own side's attributes to come to the fore.

'Chelsea are a physically stronger team than most of the Premier League teams but we don't need to match that, there's no point matching that,' he said.

'We have to play with our main strengths -- movement, passing and the ability to create openings. We are good at that and I don't want us to change.

'I think its a very well balanced game.'

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