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20th Mar 2017

Sir Alex Ferguson only has one regret from the 2008 Champions League final

"I had to make that horrible decision"

Robert Redmond

“It’s a difficult part, always, picking a team for the final in Moscow, and I had to make that horrible decision.”

You would imagine Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t have any regrets from the 2008 Champions League final.

Manchester United won their third European Cup in dramatic fashion in Moscow.

Cristiano Ronaldo opening the scoring, before Frank Lampard equalised, and the game ended up going to penalties.

Edwin van der Sar saved the decisive spot kick from Nicholas Anelka to give Ferguson his second Champions League trophy, nine years after he won his first in Barcelona against Bayern Munich.

Just over two years before Moscow, it looked as though Ferguson’s illustrious reign at Old Trafford was coming to an end. Chelsea were dominating the Premier League, Roy Keane had left and the United team was transition.

The 2008 Champions League win returned United to the top of European football. It was the defining moment for Ferguson’s last great team, and a rebuke to those who had doubted him.

As if the night couldn’t get any better, John Terry cried his heart out as United lifted the trophy.

However, despite that night being one of the best of his career, Ferguson still has one regret about it – omitting Korean midfielder Park Ji-Sung from the squad for the final.

“My problem in the 2008 final, maybe I even regret it to this day, was I left Ji-Sung Park out completely in the final,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“He’d played such a great role and that’s the problem when you get to these finals.”

Park had played four games in Europe that season, and was regularly used during his time at Old Trafford to disrupt the opposition, as noted by Andrea Pirlo.

“On one of the many occasions when our paths crossed during my time at Milan, he unleashed Park Ji-Sung to shadow me,” Pirlo wrote in his autobiography.

“The midfielder must have been the first nuclear-powered South Korean in history, in the sense that he rushed about the pitch at the speed of an electron.”

Park would start the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, both of which United lost to Barcelona.

However, it’s clear Ferguson found it tough to drop players for finals. It still rankles that he had to omit Park in 2008, and later Dimitar Berbatov.

“At Wembley (the 2011 Champions League final) I did it to Dimitar Berbatov and he took it badly,” Ferguson said. 

“He didn’t deserve it. No player deserves to be left out of the final.

“That’s why we try hard at these European seminars with the coaches to try to get 11 subs in the final. Maybe you sign a player in January, for instance, who can end up playing in the final. It’s a difficult part, always, picking a team for the final in Moscow, and I had to make that horrible decision.”