And then there was one… the Special One

February 22, 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson wrote off Chelsea’s title hopes in the middle of last week and what the Scot was charitably calling a two-horse race was down to one on Sunday, as Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City.

Strange things happen in football — look to the Spanish League, where Real Madrid suddenly look like giving Barcelona a run for their money — but surely nothing will stop Manchester United now.

So I think we can legitimately look beyond the Premier League and ahead to the prize Ferguson really wants this season.

Ferguson has often spoken of the frustration he felt that the great team that won the Champions League in 1999 did not go on and really dominate Europe.

That surprising defeat by Real Madrid in 2000 ended their reign as champions and set the tone for the next few years, as United would qualify for the knock-out rounds with some style only to come unstuck against often inferior teams.

One of those was Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto, who stunned United with a last-minute away goal from Costinha and went on to win the competition.

Mourinho is now in charge of Inter Milan, United’s opponents in the first knock-out round on Tuesday, and the presence of the Portuguese makes this a more treacherous tie for United than might otherwise have been the case.

Win this one, and I wouldn’t bet on anyone depriving United of a second successive Champions League title, not even Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Can Mourinho do it again against Ferguson? If he does, he would put himself right at the front of the queue to be the next United boss … should his ambitions lie in that direction.

PHOTO (TOP): Inter Milan’s coach Jose Mourinho gestures during their Italian Serie A match against Torino at the San Siro in Milan, Feb. 1, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

PHOTO (BOTTOM): Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring against Blackburn Rovers during their Premier League match at Old Trafford, Feb. 21, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

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