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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May, 22, 2008

'Proud' Sir Alex toasts second Champs League title

Sir Alex Ferguson insisted fate propelled his Manchester United side to a second Champions League triumph in a dramatic penalty shootout against Chelsea.

The United manager said the team, who were led up to receive the European Cup by Sir Bobby Charlton, were inspired by the prospect of winning the trophy 50 years after the Munich air disaster.

Ferguson said: 'We had a cause which was very important. People with causes are difficult to battle against and I think fate was playing its part today. I feel very, very proud.'

Ferguson also insisted his United side could go on to successfully defend the trophy next season after a match which hung on the slenderest of threads.

Cristiano Ronaldo gave United the lead with a first-half header before Frank Lampard equalised just before half-time.

Didier Drogba was sent off in the second period of extra-time for slapping Nemanja Vidic in the face after a meaningless spat.

And the drama continued in the penalty shootout when Ronaldo missed and Chelsea captain John Terry stepped up to secure the prize for his side, only to for his foot to slip and push his shot wide.

Victory was finally secured when United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka's spot-kick to give United a 6-5 victory on penalties.

Ferguson said: 'We're delighted. It's my first victory in a penalty shootout apart from the Charity Shield. I've lost three with Aberdeen and three with United so this is seventh time lucky.

'The slip by Terry gave us an opening and I thought we would win it then.

'We were fantastic in the first half but the goal gave them an impetus and they were the better team in the second half. But in extra-time I think we were the better team. It was tight and there were some fantastic moments.'

The United manager, however, admitted the moment of Van der Sar's save was one of the greatest of his career.

He said: 'Sometimes you have to pinch yourself but I don't get carried away, euphoria evaporates immediately. But that penalty save from Edwin van der Sar was my moment, the emotion and the excitement and then you just carry on.'

Ferguson was also delighted for Paul Scholes, who broke his nose in a clash with Claude Makelele but carried on to erase the disappointment of 1999 when he missed the final through suspension.

Ferguson said: 'The disappointment of '99 has gone now for him. He was very groggy at half-time and we had to give him some tablets.

'I'm delighted for the boy. He is a fantastic person. People like Scholes, Giggs and Neville: they know what Man United means. They deserve that.

'When you win something, you have to look at the players eyes to see if the hunger is there. Defending the European Cup is not an easy thing to do.

'I think the team is good enough. They will improve next year. And Scholes and Giggs will contribute, if not in as many games.'

Sir Alex admitted he felt 'drained' after his side's victory.

'It does drain you. We've played two hours of football which was very open and the penalty kicks as well, and with everything before the game as well it does take it out of you,' Ferguson said.

'It is worth it though because to get success you have to get through the pain in a game like that and it is part of being the manager of this club.

'I'm proud of winning it because, as I've said many times, we should have won it more times.

'We have made one step forward towards getting a respectable figure in terms of Champions League wins and we want to add more and get up there alongside the Liverpools, Bayern Munichs and Ajaxs.

'And then you never know what ambition can do to you. Real Madrid have nine wins and it is a target you take for granted - perhaps not in my lifetime, but is is worth chasing.'

Ferguson also hailed Ryan Giggs who scored a decisive penalty, before goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar saved from Nicolas Anelka to clinch the victory, and overtook Sir Bobby Charlton's United appearance record.

'He [Giggs] has had a fantastic career and he, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville have conducted themselves as real professionals,' Ferguson told MUTV.

'You have to proud of that and that they have done it on my watch is fantastic. To achieve what they have achieved - I'm proud of them.

'I think you can call this a great team and I think we can better with the young players coming through - I hope we can go on and defend it now.'

Ferguson also paid tribute to the club's supporters who travelled from far and wide to attend the final in the Russian capital.

'They were fantastic and there were some unbelievable scenes at the end. When you walk around it makes you realise how much it means to some of these people,' he added.

'Some of them came from Riga - I mean it's five days away or something like that. Some have made their way via St Petersburg and Helsinki - they are true supporters.'

Chelsea manager Avram Grant, meanwhile, revealed captain Terry was inconsolable.

He said: 'It is very hard to lose on penalties. The first 30 minutes we dominated the game. We hit the post and the bar and even in the penalties we came to the last penalty and slipped. But we lost.

'Terry was very sad and he cried, but he is the main reason we are here. He was there whenever we needed him and he took the responsibility today with the last penalty. He was fantastic.'

Grant refused to speculate about his own future but insisted he was proud of his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

He said: 'We did so many good things. I am very proud of the way we played in the final. The spirit was good.

'I told them I was very proud of them, proud of the way they have played all year. They played the final like a good team. They were better then Manchester United.'

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