Sir Alex Ferguson delivered a bizarre chess-inspired team talk ahead of Manchester United’s 2008 Champions League final victory over Chelsea, explaining to them how much he believed in them.
According to former United midfielder Darren Fletcher, Ferguson referenced the depth of the ‘great’ squad – with player like Louis Saha and Park Ji-Sung not even making the squad at all.
Ryan Giggs was among the substitutes, and Ferguson made it known to the starting lineup that they were not just representing themselves but those who had missed out from the game.
There were a couple of notable admissions from Manchester United’s squad in the Champions League final Moscow.
- Ancelotti: Zidane changed my idea about football
- Jose Mourinho: I was a d*ckhead to my Inter Milan players
And they did not let him down. After a 1-1 draw, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard on the scoresheet, the Red devils held their nerve to secure the second Champions League title of his reign at the theatre of dreams in a penalty shoot-out.
‘I knew I wasn’t going to start the game – I’d just come back from a knee injury I got in the last minute of a friendly game for Scotland, so I’d come back for the semi-final against Barcelona,’ Fletcher told TalkSport.
‘We had a big squad and my concern was about being on the bench and whether I’d get a chance to be involved, and fortunately I was picked for the bench.
‘Something that springs to mind about the game is Uefa gave the club a glass Champions League final chess set, really nice, and Alex Ferguson referenced it in his team talk before the game.
‘He spoke about how this match was going to be like a chess match in terms of how you keep possession, drawing people out of position, how your concentration has to be 100 per cent at all times and one mistake can cost you.
‘He also spoke about the lads who weren’t in the team.
‘Ferguson spoke about, “this is how difficult it’s been, this is why I believe in this team so much, look at the lads who aren’t in the squad, look at the lads who aren’t even on the bench”.
‘That might seem like it’s nothing but that means a lot to the lads. It might be a small consolation, but it makes your players who are starting how privileged and lucky they are.
‘Obviously they’ve earned it as well, but to be part of that great squad and how some lads are missing out, he was saying, “go and win it for them, yourselves, for everyone”.’