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FOOTBALL: Shadow of Paisley all over Fergie.

Byline: James Fletcher

WHEN Sir Alex Ferguson finally steps down as manager of Manchester United he will be judged on his record in Europe.

Already assured of the domestic crown, Ferguson is driven by a desire to be remembered as the King of all footballing Kings. On Saturday he breezed past the legendary Bob Paisley to become the most successful manager in English history.

Yet on the Continent he stands side by side with Tony Barton of Aston Villa, Raymond Goethals of Marseille and Artur Jorge of Porto - with a single Champions League triumph.

That should not sound disrespectful. Ferguson is in good company, with Marcello Lippi, Fabio Capello, Jock Stein and Sir Matt Busby, all stuck with a solitary win.

But Paisley remains head and shoulders above the rest, the only manager to ever win the European Cup three times.

Brian Clough, Arrigo Sacchi and Jose Villalonga are among a group of 11 managers with two successes, but Paisley remains the standard bearer.

To end the arguments Ferguson knows he must win the Champions League once more.

Should he not achieve his dream in his final 14 months of his Old Trafford career it would be a travesty. He knows it, and so do the United players.

On the eve of this fixture Ferguson reminded his squad: "How you perform in Europe is the focus of people's estimation of you as a football power."

Last season they had a real chance of a back-to-back win, but Real Madrid, the club kings of Europe, had other ideas. This year Bayern Munich threw a spanner in the works - at Old Trafford and again last night in the Olympic Stadium.

Lacking any real tempo or balance Ferguson's side struggled to break down the German champions, who finally gained their revenge for their own Nou Camp heart-break in 1999.

So it was not to be for Ferguson. At least for another year.

United's name will forever be associated with the European Cup. Indeed, were it not for Sir Matt Busby's endeavours 50 years ago the competition would not be the one it is today.

Without his persistence and vision, his determination to pit his talents against the Continent's top teams, English clubs may never have entered.

He badgered the Football League for permission to enter the Champions Cup and eventually got his way.

Busby's dream has become a reality and United have won the competition twice. Certainly Ferguson's epic triumph in 1999 will for ever be remembered as the most exciting European Cup Final victory of all time.

Whether he will get his hands on the famous trophy again remains to be seen.

CAPTION(S):

DOWN AND OUT: Gloom on United bench
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2001
Words:449
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