Man Utd: Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest team talk vs Chelsea in 2008 Champions League final

  • Rob Swan
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Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed many incredible nights during his glittering 26-year reign as Manchester United manager.

But right at the very top of the list are May 26, 1999 and May 21, 2008.

These were the nights that Ferguson led Man Utd to glory in club football’s biggest and most prestigious competition: the UEFA Champions League.

Nothing was ever going to top the extraordinary manner in which United won their second European Cup in ’99, defeating Bayern Munich in the most dramatic circumstances thanks to Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s injury-time goals.

However, the penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final meant just as much to Fergie and everyone else connected to the club.

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What was Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever team talk?

Ferguson would have given countless inspiring team talks during his 1500 competitive games in charge of Man Utd, but he reserved his greatest pre-match speech for the aforementioned Champions League final in Moscow.

Speaking to The Players’ Tribune in 2019, left-back Patrice Evra gave a spine-tingling account of Ferguson’s team talk to the squad on one of the biggest nights of their careers.

“We were in the dressing room when the boss came in,” the Frenchman revealed. “As usual, the music stopped. You could hear a pin drop. Then Ferguson said, ‘I’ve already won.…’

“We looked at each other.

“He said, ‘I’ve already won. We don’t even need to play this game.’

“We were like, What is he talking about? The game hasn’t even started.

“Then Ferguson turned to me. ‘Look at Patrice,’ he said. ‘He’s got 24 brothers and sisters. Imagine what his mother had to do to put food on the table.…’

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“Then he turned to Wayne Rooney.

“‘Look at Wayne. He grew up in one of the toughest parts of Liverpool.…’

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“Then he turned to Park Ji-sung.

“’Look at Ji, he’s come all the way from South Korea.…’

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“As the boss talked about our stories, we began to realise that he was referring to a fellowship. We were not just a football team — we were people from every corner of the world, from all kinds of cultures and races and religions. And now we were there, together in a dressing room in Moscow, fighting for a common cause. Through football, we had become brothers.

“’THIS is my victory!’ Ferguson said.

“We all got goosebumps. Then we went out and won the Champions League. That’s Manchester United. That’s why I love this game.”

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Wes Brown: The best team talk I heard from Ferguson

Wes Brown, who started the game at right-back and played 120 minutes before Anderson replaced him for penalties, described it as the “best team talk I heard the gaffer do”.

“He went around every player, said a few things about where they’d come from and what they had achieved,” the retired defender told the Daily Mail.

“The message was about a group all coming from different places, nobody growing up the same, but we were all here now, United. It was very good, inspiring.”

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‘Ferguson encapsulated the history of Man Utd’

United’s former fitness coach Tony Strudwick was also taken aback by Fergie’s speech.

“The team talk before the Moscow final had a kind of significance [about it] because of the historical nature,” Strudwick told the Manchester Evening News. “Being in 2008, the Busby Babes and so on. I think Wayne Rooney speaks about that as well.

“In terms of speeches, for me that was the one moment that defines all of that, it just encapsulated the history of the club, what it meant, going into the game.

“The brilliance of Sir Alex’s team talks, it wasn’t all Al Pacino team talks every week. I think the significance is it was always about working-class values and what Manchester United represents and what it means to you and your family.”

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What happened in the 2008 Champions League final?

United lifted the European Cup in Moscow following a tense and dramatic evening of football which culminated with Chelsea captain John Terry suffering the worst moment of his career.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring midway through the first half with a header before Frank Lampard equalised on the stroke of half-time.

Didier Drogba was sent off in extra-time before the match was eventually decided on penalties.

Ronaldo saw his spot-kick saved by Petr Cech but the Portuguese superstar was left off the hook by Terry, who famously slipped and hit the post while taking Chelsea’s fifth penalty.

Edwin van der Sar went on to save from Nicolas Anelka and Ferguson and his jubilant players celebrated with the trophy long into the night.

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