Fergie: It'll take City 100 years to match United
Alex Ferguson tried bitterly to spoil Manchester City’s title party, sniping: It will take you 100 years to match our history.
Fergie somehow found it in him to congratulate Roberto Mancini’s men, after Sergio Aguero’s incredible added-time strike had helped them end 44 years of hurt.
But in typical Ferguson style, the Old Trafford boss was defiant, bullish and champing at the bit to burst City’s bubble.
The pain of losing the title on goal difference to Manchester United’s arch-rivals will live with him for ever.
Yet the Scot wasted no time in warning the cock-a-hoop Blue Mooners they are light years away from eclipsing the 19-time champions.
Fergie barked: “They can go on as much as they like. That’s what you would expect. But the history of our club stands us aside.
“We don’t need to worry about that. I think we have a rich history, better than anyone, and it’ll take them a century to get to our level.
“For us, it’s a challenge — and we’re good at challenges. We’ll kick on from here.”
Amazingly, for 13 seconds at the end of United’s 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light, the Red Devils believed title No 20 was in the bag.
Fergie went out on the pitch but then almost immediately news of Aguero’s winner filtered through.
Premier League officials had even begun to get a replica trophy ready on Wearside. But it was not to be.
Ferguson admitted: “We’re all disappointed, obviously. We should be disappointed, as we did our best today.
“But for their goalkeeper, we could have scored seven goals.
“We hit the post, the bar and the keeper made some fantastic saves throughout the match.
“It was a good level of performance and I have absolutely no recriminations about our season at all.
“Yes, there will be times when we can sit back and say we did this wrong, we did that wrong. But 89 points would have won the league most seasons.
“They’re a good bunch of lads. The younger players will remember today, because sometimes a bad experience is even better for you.
“When you’ve a certain character and a good purpose about you, then you shouldn’t fear the future — and I don’t think these lads will.
“That’s how the players are. It’s an experience they have never had before. They kept the temperament of the game well. We showed good composure for most of it.
“Sunderland, right after half-time, had a few shots blocked and things like that. But in the main we held it, no problem.
“So well done to the players, because Sunderland is not an easy place to come to. They were very committed, as you would always expect of a Martin O’Neill team. We’ve come out of it with a lot of credit. We congratulate Manchester City. Anyone who wins the league deserves to win it, because it’s a very, very difficult league to win. We know that, because, as we’ve experienced today, we’ve lost on goal difference.”
How United blew an eight-point lead will play on the 70-year-old’s mind all summer as he plots revenge.
He added: “At the start of the season, if I remember correctly, I said 82 points would probably win the league this season and we are seven points ahead of that. But it doesn’t matter. We’ve lost the league.
“We’ve taken great credit. We’ve had a lot of injuries and changing the team around doesn’t help to get a balance. But with Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand in form for a long period, we were better and better.”
Sunderland boss O’Neill could barely believe what happened.
The startled Ulsterman said: “It was incredible. Those last couple of minutes took me back a few years to my season at Celtic, when we lost the league on goal difference. Really, it was unbelievable.
“Alex will be bitterly disappointed. I shook his hand at the end and then we were waiting around for the news and it all happened.”
While it was a nightmare for Fergie, it was not much better for O’Neill, who endured a rotten end to the campaign.
The Mackems have won just twice in their last 15 matches and the end of the season really could not come soon enough.
O’Neill, who fears John O’Shea’s calf injury could hamper his Euro 2012 chances, added: “Losing to Everton in the FA Cup did have a disappointing effect but we are still in the Premier League and that’s all I can ask for.
“Next season starts now for us.
We have work to do and let us see what happens.”
He will not be the only one scheming in the summer after this.