The Premier League trophy was not even in the cabinet when Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson switched his attention to picking a team to beat Barcelona to add the European Cup to his haul.
United face Barcelona on Saturday in the Champions League final and Ferguson was already pondering his lineup for the huge task of beating the hot favourites while the fireworks were still going off to celebrate domestic success on Sunday.
“I think I could pick four or five teams for next week and they wouldn’t let us down,” he told MUTV.
Ferguson has attributed this season’s success to using the full potential of a strong squad, highlighted by a procession of 21 players being presented with Premier League winners’ medals, all eligible as they had made 10 appearances or more.
It gives him plenty of options to choose from next weekend — a clear sign that the lines between fringe player and starter are not as clear as usual — but the reality is that only the best will do.
Asked if he had finalised his starting XI, Ferguson said: “Not entirely but we’ve got the nucleus who deserve their place and there are others who deserve a place.
“But I can only pick 11 and that’s the horrible part of being a manager now. At a cup final it’s absolute agony and something you don’t relish at all, but I have to do it.”
‘We’ll win the cup’
With Ferguson keen to avoid the mistakes that led to defeat by the Spaniards in the 2009 final, when he rested many of his first-choice players for an end-of-season league game against Hull City only for them to then lose 2-0 to Barca, he played a stronger-than-expected side for Sunday’s last domestic game at home to Blackpool that ended with a 4-2 victory.
Having already wrapped up the title, United had been expected by many pundits to field a second-string side but instead big game players like Nemanja Vidic, Edwin van der Sar, Park Ji-sung and Nani were among the starters.
There were of course notable players like Rio Ferdinand, Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs either on the bench or rested altogether but there were certainly more possible Wembley starters involved than many had predicted.
“I have to pick a team and leave some very good players out,” Ferguson said.
“Hopefully, those who have all played a part in the European campaign this season will feel satisfaction at the end of the night at Wembley and we’ll win the cup.” — Reuters