Ferguson had to go out a winner
Wed, 15 May 2013 21:24:00
Chelsea made it back-to-back European wins as they claimed the Europa League with a 2-1 win over Benfica in the Amsterdam Arena.
The final had appeared to be heading for extra-time as Oscar Cardozo had levelled from the penalty spot just eight minutes after Fernando Torres had put Chelsea ahead on the hour.
But it was won in injury-time as Branislav Ivanovic rose brilliantly to head home a Juan Mata corner to give Chelsea yet more European silverware just 12 months after claiming the Champions League title.
It was a night of disappointment for Benfica as they played their part in a thrilling contest in Holland. The Portuguese outfit were by far the better team in the opening half, and they enjoyed good possession throughout - but they failed to really test Petr Cech.
As early as the second minute Cardozo headed over, whilst Nico Gaitan twice fired wide and Enzo Perez and Eduardo Salvio were constantly probing and driving forward from midfield.
One-time Bolton loanee Rodrigo probably had the best chance of the half when a free-kick was taken short and came into him just six yards out, but he twice lost his footing and missed the chance to test Cech.
Chelsea were limited but Artur had to pull off an exceptional save just before the break when Frank Lampard made a rare foray to the edge of their box and unleashed an archetypal thunderous drive, but the Brazilian managed to tip it over when he looked to be going the wrong way.
Into the second half and the expected reaction from Chelsea did not materialise with Benfica pushing forward in numbers again. Gaitan saw a half-volley fly wide before Cardozo had a header ruled out for offside.
On the hour mark Cech made a good save from Salvio's back-post header - but from that nobody expected what was to come as Chelsea were ahead within seconds.
Cech threw the ball long for Mata in the centre-circle, he flicked it on and Torres was away, holding off Luisao and going past Artur before finishing clinically.
Chelsea's lead though lasted just eight minutes. Cesar Azpilicueta handled in the box as substitute Lima flicked the ball on and Cardozo stepped up to hammer the ball past Cech.
Both teams pushed on for the winner and they both had their chances. Cech was at his best as he tipped over a brilliant dipping volley from Cardozo.
Then captain Lampard came within inches of winning it in the final minute of normal time but his stunning effort from 30 yards cannoned back off the bar.
But, just when the game looked to be heading into extra-time, Chelsea won it. Ramires chased down a long ball to win a corner, Mata took it and Ivanovic rose unmarked to head into the corner of the net.
Still there was time for Cardozo to almost be presented with a chance to take the match to extra-time, but he was denied by a great lunge from Gary Cahill and Chelsea celebrated as the full-time whistle went just moments later.
The Manchester United manager, who retires after 26 years of unprecedented success at Old Trafford, explained how important it was to him to leave his post with the club back on top of the pile.
Speaking on stage at the club's end of season awards ceremony, Ferguson told MUTV: "That was an issue when (wife) Cathy and I chatted about this at Christmas. At that point we had a five-point lead and I thought we had a great chance.
"I said 'I really need to go out a winner. We need to win something'. After the disappointment of last season we couldn't take a second one. I was hopeful we'd win it and we did.
"We had a terrific points lead. The problem is when you have a lead and you start to lose a point. When we lost to City in the Monday night game you start to think 'Christ, you can't throw this away'."
That need to end on a high note extends to the final game of the Ferguson era at West Brom on Sunday too.
The silverware may have been sewn up already, but Ferguson has no interest in signing off with defeat.
"We need to win the game on Sunday," he added.
"We won the last home game (against Swansea) and I don't want to lose my last game, that's for sure."
Ferguson was instrumental in the decision to appoint Everton manager David Moyes as his successor and he explained why he felt his fellow Scot was the man for the job.
United may have known plenty of success in recent seasons, but Ferguson feels the ability to deal with adversity could be crucial for Moyes.
"What I know of David is he's hard working, there's an integrity about him, he's got a work ethic about him and he's a serious football man.
"These are qualities he's going to need. If you look at what he's done at Everton for instance.
"Eleven years without real financial backing, but he persevered and created some decent teams in the last few years.
"One thing you have to do here is sacrifice and persevere. It's not always a golden path of riches.
"There are hard days, there are difficult days, there are bad losses.
"Our supporters have suffered many things but they've also enjoyed many things."
United's chief executive David Gill is also departing at the end of the season, but he is content that the foundations being taken over by Moyes are built for success.
"It will be strange (when Ferguson leaves) but we've got the infrastructure there," he told MUTV.
"We have very good staff off and on the field. It'll be strange but David Moyes coming in will know he's got a rock-solid club, a club that has just won the Premier League by a big points margin."