9 April ~ Prior to Manchester United's quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich, Alex Ferguson told a story about the grace shown by the Bayern players who lost out to United in the 1999 Champions League final. Ferguson was visiting Munich the following season to see them host Rangers when Ottmar Hitzfeld invited him to dine with him and his brothers after the game: "We were in a room that was just for directors and guests but every one of the Bayern players came through one at a time and shook my hand. I thought that was very nice of them." Perhaps Ferguson should remember these occasions when giving post-match interviews.
United were unlucky against Bayern but Ferguson was well beyond the realms of decency when he called the Munich players "typical Germans" for petitioning the referee to send off United's young defender Rafael. Perhaps Ferguson – who made tactical blunders in both legs – could learn something from Lorenz-Gunther Kostner, the Wolfsburg manager, whose side were knocked out of the Europa League by Fulham last night.
The German coach didn't look for excuses or someone to blame, but simply admitted that he and his team had come up short over the two legs: "We didn't have the team with enough bite and the right attitude. We made mistakes and we made the wrong substitutions. I'm sorry, the players are sorry. Fulham are a very good team with a very good defence and I'd always warned it was not going to be an easy game. If Fulham play in a very compact way like they did tonight then they have a very good chance of making the final."
The last two weeks have seriously derailed Manchester United's season but instead of taking his share of responsibility and offering congratulations to the opposition – like his German counterpart – Ferguson has blamed opposing players, referees and linesmen. The United manager is rightly heralded for his successes but his constant carping could see him remembered as much for the way he loses as for the times he has won. As Uli Hoeness, the Bayern Munich president, said on Wednesday night: "We lost in 1999 like gentlemen. Now United should do the same."