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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 22, 2008

Ferdinand hails 'phenomenal' Giggs

Victorious Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand paid tribute to Ryan Giggs after the pair lifted the Champions League trophy in Moscow.

Substitute Giggs broke Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time appearance record with his 759th outing in a United shirt as the Reds won a dramatic penalty shootout victory over English rivals Chelsea.

United had taken the lead in the 26th minute through a Cristiano Ronaldo header but Frank Lampard equalised just before the break.

Chelsea then hit the woodwork twice but the game went to penalties with the final score at 1-1 after extra-time.

The Blues were handed the advantage when Petr Cech saved Ronaldo's spot-kick and it looked all over for United when captain John Terry stepped-up to take his penalty.

Terry only had to score to earn Chelsea their first Champions League triumph but the defender slipped as he connected with the ball and his effort went agonisingly wide.

That handed the initiative back to United and when Edwin van der Sar saved from Nicolas Anelka, the Reds had claimed their third European crown - half a century after the Munich air disaster which killed eight of the famous `Busby Babes' and 40 years since they won the competition for the first time.

Ferdinand claimed it was only fitting that Giggs should hold the trophy alongside him after his record-breaking career at Old Trafford.

Charlton, one of the survivors of the Munich disaster and now a club director, looked on proudly as Giggs went on to better his mark.

'Ryan Giggs is Manchester United,' said Ferdinand. 'He is phenomenal. The thing is he has come on as a substitute and made an impact. He could have scored but John Terry cleared his shot off the line.

'He is not thought of as highly as he should be in my opinion. When he has retired, people will appreciate him much more.

'It is a shame really because he has been a fantastic servant to United and to football.

'To play so many games for one club is unheard of really, especially in today's game.'

Ferdinand has admitted he was disappointed his Manchester United side had not matched their treble-winning counterparts of 1999.

'The biggest disappointment of the season is that we didn't do the treble,' said Ferdinand. 'Maybe I'm being greedy but Portsmouth had one shot on goal and we had a lot of chances. But that is part and parcel of playing football and you can't have it all.

'But next season we want to be winners again, we have done the double this year and we want to comeback stronger. I am sure the manager will make moves in the transfer market and add to an already fantastic squad.'

Ferdinand, vying for the England captaincy with Terry, had some sympathy for his international colleague, especially as he thought it was all over when the Chelsea defender stepped up to take his kick.

'Of course I feel for John,' said Ferdinand. 'Someone has got to be a loser on the day and unfortunately it was them. Don't forget we got beat in the FA Cup final last season and so sometimes the boot is on the other foot.

'When John Terry stepped up I thought it was all over because he is a good penalty-taker.

'I've seen him take penalties in training and take them for England before in a shoot-out. He was unfortunate that he slipped but we won the game, so I am delighted.

'I can't really put it into words. Playing for Manchester United is a great achievement in itself. But being able to go up there and be one of the players that has been lucky enough to lift the trophy, puts it into another stratosphere.

'The manager's team talk before the game was brilliant. He said this was the time we had to go out and become champions. The manager is the heartbeat of Manchester United. Whatever he says goes. His expectancies are mirrored by ourselves.

'Edwin is a hero really because he saved the penalty. But the penalty-takers on both sides have to have big balls to do what they did.

'This is what you play football for, to be in positions like this to win things.

'Who would have thought as young kids playing football in the school playground on the estates, that you would have the opportunity to come to a Champions League final and win it. It is the stuff of dreams and we are lucky to be living that dream now.'

United were far from the better side after the first half-hour and Chelsea hit the woodwork twice as they searched for a winner.

But while Ferdinand admits United rode their luck at times he felt they deserved their victory in the end.

'We should have sewn it up in the first half,' he said. 'We had many chances but Cech made two fantastic saves and we missed a couple of half-chances as well.

'Then they hit us with a sucker punch at the end of the first half. Drogba hit the post and then Lampard hit the bar in the first half of extra time.

'We rode our luck a little bit but I think in these situations you need that element of luck.

'You get the rub of the green sometimes when you play some good football. In the first half we put together some great attacking football and that maybe got us the rub of the green that we needed to win.'

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