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Managers - Sir Alex Ferguson

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Barca - Player pen pix| Pep Guardiola | Sir Alex Ferguson | Man Utd - Player Pen Pix

ROUTES TO ROME: Barcelona | Manchester United

When Sir Alex Ferguson took over at Manchester Untied in 1986 he said that knocking Liverpool of their perch was his prime motivation.

After 23 years and 11 domestic league titles the club he has come to dominate by force of his personality and sheer will to win is now equal with Liverpool on 18 titles. Ask the Scot what keeps him motivated now and the answer is unequivocal: continued and consistent success in Europe and the Champions League.

It is Ferguson's belief that United should have more European titles to its name given the club's domestic dominance over the last 15 years. United may have won a third European Cup last year in Moscow, but it rankles with Ferguson that it came nine years after their last success and 40 years after their first.

United's three European titles places them ahead of teams like Juventus, Inter Milan, Nottingham Forest and Barcelona in the history books who all boast two titles, but behind the greats like Bayern Munich and Ajax who have four victories, Liverpool with five, and far behind AC Milan and Real Madrid with seven and nine titles respectively.

''I have said this so many times and I continue to repeat it. We should have won more trophies in Europe,'' said Ferguson. ''It is a genuine criticism as far as I am concerned. There have been opportunities to do better. Sometimes we have been unlucky and sometimes we have been disappointing.''

An away goals defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 semi-final, and a 2-0 aggregate defeat to Borussia Dortmund in 1997 were both tough to take for Ferguson, but despite experience of falling at the penultimate hurdle, United have a perfect record when it comes to European finals.

Including the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup final the Old Trafford outfit have competed in four European finals and won the lot: Rome represents the chance for United to win a fourth European Cup and maintain their exceptional 100% record in European finals.

It is fitting that Barcelona could be the team to sate Ferguson's thirst for European glory given the supporting role the Catalan club and city have played in United's history.

Barca were the club United beat in 1991 as Ferguson won his first European trophy with United and the Camp Nou played host to the miracle of the 1999 Champions League final and the city to the celebrations that followed United's first European Cup win since 1968.

And along with other memorable meetings down the years Barca were the vanquished semi-final opposition last year as United plotted a course to Moscow and glory.

For a man who believes greatness is defined by European success on a consistent basis, Ferguson is on the cusp of becoming the first British manager since Brian Clough in 1980 to retain the European Cup and only the second manager after Bob Paisley to lift the European Cup three times.

And that the win could come against the team most regard as the only real rival to the crown as the best club in Europe would make victory all the more special.


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