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Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK

Sport: Football

United's chance of a lifetime

Alex Ferguson (centre): "I think we've got a great chance"

It is undoubtedly a sporting cliché, but for both Manchester United and Bayern Munich, games do not come any bigger than this.

Andy Tighe reports: "Nearly every hotel in Barcelona is fully booked"
For two of Europe's largest clubs, Wednesday's European Cup final represents a chance to complete a unique 'treble'.

With the Premiership and the FA Cup trophy already locked firmly away in the Old Trafford vaults, victory in Barcelona would bring United a prize no other English club has achieved.

[ image: FC Bayern: Looking confident ahead of the clash]
FC Bayern: Looking confident ahead of the clash
Bayern, too, have a chance to add to their club's previous glories. Having already secured the Bundersliga, they also face Werder Bremen in German Cup final.

For United, the game represents a chance to seal their place in footballing history, as the team who surpassed the achievements of Sir Matt Busby's 1968 United side and the great Liverpool teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Alan Green: "Ferguson picked his team on Sunday"
But despite the enormous pressure, and a late injury scare over David Beckham, manager Alex Ferguson is remaining typically calm.

"I'd be absolutely delighted if we won," Ferguson said.

United's Euro Showdown
"My lack of vanity would preclude me from being gutted if we lost though. I think that what I have achieved stands for itself and I'm blessed with what I've won as a manager.

"So why should I look upon a failure to win the European Cup as a tragedy for me? But it would be a terrible disappointment though as we've got a great chance."

'A win would be significant'

Ferguson, who was watching at home in Scotland when Busby's side last brought the European Cup to Old Trafford, insists that matching the Old Trafford legend, who would have celebrated his 90th birthday on Wednesday, was not his main driving force.

BBC Football correspondent Mike Ingham: "Ferguson can draw strength from the fact they won the FA Cup without Roy Keane"
"You may not believe it but I don't think it's so important matching Sir Matt Busby, the more important thing is to give the club the success that we all hope we can," he said.

One thing that does matter, however, is to restore the European Cup to England for the first time since Liverpool beat Roma on penalties in 1984.

"It's significant. I've always said that a national team is the focus point in the country and the next stage is the European Cup," he said.

[ image: Alex Ferguson: Could surpass Sir Matt Busby's achievement]
Alex Ferguson: Could surpass Sir Matt Busby's achievement
"The English teams in the 1980s were fantastic and you could say they dominated the competition really."

Ferguson has kept his team firmly under wraps, but his thoughts are likely to revolve around who should partner Nicky Butt in central midfield in the absence through suspension of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.

Centre-back Ronny Johnsen would appear to be the favourite for the role, with David Beckham retained on the right flank, Ryan Giggs on the left wing and Phil Neville possibly missing out.

Teddy Sheringham may also come close to a starting place, following his man-of-the-match display in the FA Cup final against Newcastle - though Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole appear likely to get the nod up front.

Luck, luck, luck

But if United appear confident, it is more than matched by Bayern.

Their veteran defender Lothar Matthaus is convinced his side can defeat United, saying: "There's no clear favourite for the final."

"We know each other very well after playing two tough games against them already.

"But I remember something said by Gary Lineker, one of the heroes of English football. Lineker said: 'Football is a simple game. It's just 22 players running after a ball - and in the end the Germans always win'."

Bayern, whose coach Ottmar Hitzfeld says he will make a final decision on his starting line-up after a team meeting on Wednesday, have been in outstanding form this season.

After drawing with United twice in Europe - 2-2 in Germany and 1-1 away - the stage appears set for another close tussle, a fact recognised by goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.

"We've been asked a hundred times over the last few days what will be the deciding factor and all I can say is luck.

"There is no other answer. It will come down to luck, luck and luck again."

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