In an interview with Yahoo! Sport, Sir Alex Ferguson gave his views about football in England, the effects of UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations across Europe, the rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and finally the capabilities of Pep Guardiola and Barcelona.
Read part one of this interview here.
Q: As we approach the end of 2012, how do you assess the year in English football?
A: I think the league is still the most exciting in Europe, I don’t think there is any question about that. The great thing about our league is that anyone can beat anyone and in general you see 100% commitment and the supporters recognise that.
German football is very successful at the moment, the crowds are fantastic and it is very cheap in relation to English football which encourages supporter participation. The stadiums are great also; Germany is definitely improving as they have a real good quality of football with a lot of goals but the Barclays Premier League is still the most exciting.
Q: Only two English clubs made it into the last 16 of the Champions League this season. What are your thoughts on the view that the Barclays Premier League isn’t as strong as perhaps it was a few years ago?
A: Well Europe has certainly been disappointing for Premier League teams in the last couple of years whereas for quite a few years prior to that we had three teams in the semi-finals and an all English final between ourselves and Chelsea.
Sometimes however, you get blips but I don’t see this happening consistently as I think English teams will always be challenging in the latter stages of the Champions League.
Q: How will the implementation of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations alter the balance of power in the Barclays Premier League, and across Europe?
A: Well it will be Europe if it does apply itself the way that has been suggested. It will affect everyone in Europe and possibly make things more equal.
Where UEFA have the strength is that you have to be invited to compete in the Champions League you don’t win the right to go into the Champions League. That is UEFA’s main strength and if they do apply themselves this might improve the quality of the leagues.
Q: Lionel Messi recently surpassed Gerd Mueller’s record for goals in a calendar year. Do you think the standards he is setting will ever be matched?
A: It is difficult to say, he is an exceptional young man there is no question about that. The great thing about football is that there will always be great players.
You can go back to the 60’s with Di Stefano, Puskas, and Eusebio. Going into the 70’s you had Cruyff and Beckenbauer and then in the 80’s Van Basten.
I think that what we are seeing at the moment from Messi is an exceptional player from this decade along with Cristiano Ronaldo. There is nothing between the two of them, they are both the best players in the world.
Q: Do you think the rivalry between Ronaldo and Messi drives them on to achieve greater feats?
A: No, I don’t think the rivalry against each other bothers them. I think they have their own personal pride in terms of wanting to be the best and I certainly know that about Cristiano because he played here for six years.
Q: Speaking of Barcelona, there could be a number of clubs across Europe manoeuvring to recruit Pep Guardiola this summer. Have you ever known a situation when a manager is as much in demand as a star player?
A: That is difficult to say. I spoke to Pep a little while ago and he said that he has no interest in getting back into management at the moment.
Q: What do you make of him as a coach and his qualities?
A: Well his record is fantastic; the trophies he won at Barcelona were quite exceptional and that is his CV, he wins trophies.
Q: And the manner in which his team plays?
A: Of course, but Barcelona have always had that style and played attractive football. He increased that by putting a new work ethic into the players in terms of their work rate.
They work extremely hard to get the ball back and if you combine that with their possession it makes a fantastic team.
For more insight from Sir Alex Ferguson and other leading managers plus exclusive Barclays Premier Leauge highlights, go to www.yahoo.co.uk/sport.