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Leverkusen kicks out United

Germans will meet Barcelona or Madrid in Champions Cup final

Leverkusen kicks out United

Alex Ferguson put Manchester United's latest Champions Cup flop down to sheer bad luck. Maybe it's something deeper than that.
Ferguson's Reds had at least three efforts kicked off the line when they were held 1-1 by Bayer Leverkusen in the second leg of the Champions Cup semifinal on Tuesday. They went out on away goals after the German club came back twice to tie 2-2 at Old Trafford.
It means United didn't make it to the May 15 final across the border at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, Ferguson's home town.
"I think in any game you need that bit of luck and there were four opportunities cleared off the line," said Ferguson, who still has England captain David Beckham sidelined with a broken bone in his foot.
"That's why we needed that little bit of luck, particularly with the last one with Diego Forlan's great lob and the defender has done fantastically to clear it.
"Leverkusen got that luck tonight with their equalizing goal," the veteran Scot said. "That was the decisive moment right before halftime.
"That was a terrible blow for us to go in at 1-1 at halftime after looking at that point that we were going to score more goals. That was the decisive feature and if we had gone in at 1-0 we would have won the game."
Perhaps it only has itself to blame.
United's fans know they should be preparing for the Champions Cup final right now. Leverkusen is no Bayern Munich. It has never even won the German league title and looks like it has tossed away the standings lead this time.
But, when the time came for the United players to climb to another level, they couldn't.
Ruud van Nistelrooy, the Dutch striker who has been a standout goalscorer all season, was a major disappointment. So was Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. The defense often looked like strangers to each other.
When Roy Keane gave United the lead, the Reds wore a smile of confidence. But Oliver Neuville's equalizer just before halftime wiped that away and Ferguson's team, winner of the domestic Premier League seven times in nine seasons, simply looked incapable of beating the overachieving Germans.
About to lose the Premier League title to Arsenal, Ferguson will go away with no trophies at all while English soccer will reflect on a season without a European final appearance.
At age 60, Ferguson has agreed to stay on for three more seasons and has plenty to think about during the off season.
On the assumption that Arsenal will win the league title, United is left with the consolation of maintaining its remarkable sequence of placing either first or second in the Premier League in the last 10 seasons.
Ferguson thought his squad was good enough to win Europe's premier title not just this season but again and again.
Elimination by modest Bayer Leverkusen and the disappointment of not playing in a final in his home town might convince him he still has more work to do.


Updated : 2021-10-22 15:35 GMT+08:00