5.41 AM Tuesday, 26 September 2023
  • City Fajr Shuruq Duhr Asr Magrib Isha
  • Dubai 04:52 06:05 12:13 15:36 18:15 19:28
26 September 2023 $dmi_content.escapeHtml4($rs.get('weather.code.w${report.significantWeather.code}')) Max: 40 °

Fergie's soldiers are five-star side

Sir Alex added another title to his vast collection at Old Trafford on Sunday. (GETTY IMAGES)

By John McAuley

Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Army continues to slay all that is put before it. Even with a "depleted" side – which included Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand – Manchester United made it two out of two trophies for the season at the start of the week.

The Carling Cup final victory against Tottenham on Sunday reinforced theories that this is Ferguson's most proficient squad. Ben Foster, Darron Gibson, and Danny Welbeck were given rare starts, yet coped admirably with the stresses of playing in their first Wembley final.

Then, when it came to the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the penalty shootout, up stepped the more experienced members of the team and the result was guaranteed. The club added the first domestic title of the season to the Club World Cup – achieved by putting LDU Quito to the sword in December –and remain on course for an unprecedented quintet of trophies come the end of May.

Designs of domination were given a brief hiatus on Tuesday night. Liverpool and Chelsea, United's two closest challengers, collected three points from round 28 of the fixtures to shift the attention back on to Ferguson's men.

Guus Hiddink inspired the Blues to their fourth successive win under his tenure and Rafael Benitez put last weekend's disappointment at Middlesbrough behind him when his charges disposed of a meagre Sunderland side at Anfield.

However, the truth is all they can really hope for from this season is to get caught in the champions' slipstream.

After going a goal down against Newcastle, caused by an uncharacteristic Edwin Van der Sar mistake – the first goal the United keeper has conceded in 1,311 minutes of league football – those watching in London and on Merseyside will have been teased by the prospect of catching the 17-time league winners.

Such fantasy was flippantly swatted away at St James's Park as Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov ensured the gap at the top of the table reverted to a seemingly unassailable seven points. Ferguson quickly rallied his troops afterwards, insisting that complacency cannot set in at Old Trafford. And it won't.

With the evergreen Scot at the helm, the club's determination to reign supreme is unrepentant. Ryan Giggs, in his 19th season under Ferguson, is the perfect example of the drive to succeed that courses through the veins of the domestic and European champions.

The Welshman has been inspired for much of this season and displayed his value during this week's cameo appearance at Wembley. At 35, he is still hungry to enhance his standing as the most decorated player in English football history.

Credit for that must go to arguably the greatest manager Britain has produced. The Carling Cup was his 42nd title from his time at Aberdeen and United, and the emerging crop of youngsters at the latter will only stoke the fires for more glory. Talk of retirement has been confined to conjecture once again. The all-conquering Red Army continues its assault on all frontiers, with Ferguson's foot soldiers intent on leaving their slain opponents out in the cold.

Geoff's made for matchplay

Geoff Ogilvy proved he's one of the best match play golfers on Tour when he collected his third WGC title last Sunday. The Australian defeated Paul Casey convincingly, winning 4&3 at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, prompting the Englishman to say: "He just played excellent golf all day. I threw some good stuff at him this afternoon, but there was no flinching."

Ogilvy is second only to Tiger Woods in WGC titles, as the victory added to triumphs in 2006 and 2008. However, he has some way to go to catch the world No1 – Tiger has already racked up 15 in his career to date.