Former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke believes that Sir Alex Ferguson could hold the key to his former club's chances of lifting the famous UEFA Champions League trophy on Saturday evening at Wembley.
Twelve years ago today, during his half-time team talk, the Scot famously said to his team, trailing 1-0 to Bayern Munich at Camp Nou: "At the end of this game, the European Cup will be only six feet away from you and you’ll not even able to touch it if we lose. And for many of you that will be the closest you will ever get. Don’t you dare come back in here without giving your all." Thankfully for Ferguson and United, the team did give their all and emerged victorious after two late strikes.
“When I think back to my time at Manchester United, he motivated us as players and motivated the club in general,” Yorke told FIFA.com. “I want to know what motivated him and what continues to motivate him. He seems to have immeasurable passion and an incessant will to win. He is a genius, there's no getting around that.
“I know there's been a lot of speculation, I think he already knows his team for the game. I don't think there will be an element of surprise when the team is announced. He will have a gameplan and he will make sure that he selects players who will follow his instructions to the letter. That's what they'll have to do as well if they're going to beat what is a very, very good Barcelona team.”
Yorke, who has recently completed his UEFA ‘B’ coaching licence, has offered his former mentor his own advice on how best to handle the threat of the Spanish champions, by advising the Red Devils to play them at their own game.
“I don't think you can stop Xavi, Iniesta and Messi,” he said, smiling. “Barcelona will want to control the game by keeping possession, so I think United will have to give them a taste of their own medicine by winning the ball and keeping it. They could really frustrate them in that way.
"Of course Barcelona will get chances, and when they do it’s up to United’s players to close them down, deny them space and defend well. You can concentrate too much on Barcelona and forget your own way of playing. If you do that, you could be playing into their hands.”
The former Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City forward is a year younger than one of the players who will be on display at Wembley, namely United's goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. Yorke was quick to pay tribute to the Dutch goalkeeper, who will be retiring after the game, and hopes that his final game will be memorable for all the right reasons.
“Experience is the right word when you talk about Van der Sar - he's been sensational in the six years he's been at the club,” he continued. “People still talk about Peter Schmeichel and what he achieved at Manchester United, and I think in years to come people will say the same about Edwin. Both have an enormous presence, they have the experience, they have the talent and they exude calmness and confidence. You need that as a goalkeeper, especially on occasions like a Champions League final. All great players want to go out on a high and I hope that will be the case with Edwin.”
The former Trinidad and Tobago international has high hopes for the English side and believes that the Champions League trophy will be remaining in the country for the next 12 months.
“Being an ex-United player and fan I think we'll squeeze them out 2-1,” he said. “I can see Barcelona scoring but I think United will dig deep and win the game. It's not going to be easy, we all know that, but with the home support and the fact that the game is at Wembley - when you consider that Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick are all England internationals - that's bound to be an advantage. I just hope those factors can see the game swing in United's favour.”
If that happens, there will be no one happier than Yorke, who will be recalling the memories of that night in Barcelona 12 years ago when Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored injury-time goals as United snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
"Words can't even begin to describe the feeling at the full-time whistle, but it was sensational. It was a remarkable game and it had all the dramatic intensity which a football match can provide.
"In football, the guys that score the goals are the ones that get the headlines. Obviously Teddy and Ole came off the bench and won us the game. But football is a team sport too, and the entire squad played a huge part in the result, as did the manager. He made the decision to bring on those two players, so it was a real team effort.
“We'd been through a lot as a group of players and we wanted to create history. We managed to do that. To be part of such a fantastic squad in a treble-winning year was amazing. It seemed that we were destined to win the trophy and I think that that evening will live long in the memory of not just players like myself, but of football fans in general.”