Age-apart managers driven by success

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is old enough to be the father of Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and wishes his own father had been alive to enjoy all the success he has had in his astonishing career. Ferguson, 67, will pit his wits against 38-year-old Guardiola when their teams clash in the Champions League final in Rome on Wednesday. The Scot will become only the second manager after Bob Paisley of Liverpool to win three European Cups if Manchester United retain the trophy. Asked what the achievement would mean to him, Ferguson gave a rare insight into some of his emotions. "I just wish my father was alive. He would've loved to have seen me achieve that," he told reporters at United's training ground Carrington last week. Ferguson's father, also called Alex, died aged 66 in 1978 before his son began winning trophies first with Aberdeen and then with United. Ferguson junior said he owed his father and his mother Lizzie a debt. "It is something you are born with. It's in your genes," he said. "My father was very quiet. My mother was the one with the real determination. "My father was a hard-working man, who just read books. He was always reading. My mother ran the house," although, he added wryly: "it's difficult to see part of me in that." MORE INTELLIGENT He said he had matured since arriving at Old Trafford nearly 23 years ago. "I have changed, yes. Maturity brings a different type of person. I'm far more intelligent than when I first started. The best way to sum it up is that now I am in control. When I came, I was never in control. "You can't be in control when you are not winning. It's only when you have success that you can get that control. That's true of every coach who goes into a football club - he will never have control until he is successful. If you don't have success then for control you may as well go to Mars." The turning point for Ferguson came when United ended their 26-year wait for the title, lifting the first championship in the Premier League era in 1993. United have just clinched their 11th title in 17 seasons and Ferguson has brought more than 20 major trophies to United since he won the FA Cup in 1990. "We hadn't won the league for 26 years. It was a burden, absolutely no doubt. The previous year we'd lost it to Leeds, when we had to play four games in six days. "That cost us when we should have won it. But the funny thing about adversity is that some people thrive on it. This club thrives on it and we showed it that year." FIRST SEASON While Ferguson hunts down even more success, Guardiola has done well himself in his first season in charge at the Nou Camp. With a Spanish League and Cup double already secured, Guardiola is seeking to complete a Treble with the addition of the European Cup - the feat that Ferguson and United clinched, in Barcelona, 10 years ago this week. Asked how he would compare himself to Ferguson, Guardiola told reporters: "Well, he's got a few years on me as a coach. And he has a lot more titles. "But I just admire his career so much. He has overhauled his team and turned them into champions. So it's a great honour for me to play a final against Alex Ferguson." One difference between the two men, apart from the generation gap, is that Guardiola was a great player at the highest level while Ferguson, although he played for Rangers for a spell, has been far more successful as a coach than he ever was as a footballer. Guardiola was in the Barcelona team that won the European Cup in 1992 and lost to AC Milan in 1994, but is in no doubt where Wednesday's game ranks. "This is the most important match of my life as a player and a coach," he said. Ferguson's ruthless drive for success is well documented and while Guardiola is also a driven man he regards himself as extremely fortunate to be part of Barcelona's achievements. "We have our way of playing but there are other ways of playing that are equally valid. So we don't feel superior. We are just going to focus on our tactics," he said.