What Manchester United great Sir Alex Ferguson said about Petr Cech
Upon Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, as well as the standard best United XIs there was also a best opposition XI the Scot had faced during his 26-and-a-half-year premiership.
There were three standout goalkeeping candidates. Juventus great Gianluigi Buffon only started once against United, who put three past him in Turin in 2003. Iker Casillas was in inspired form during Real Madrid’s 3-2 victory at Old Trafford in 2000 but only appeared three times against United. The worthiest inclusion was Petr Cech.
The Chelsea side Cech played in was maybe the most daunting Ferguson’s United ever triumphed over. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal raised the bar once, twice and thrice, yet United’s 2007 championship against Jose Mourinho’s first Chelsea side is maybe the finest of the Ferguson era, save the breakthrough title in 1993.
Cech’s arrival in England in the summer of 2004 coincided with United’s period of goalkeeping uncertainty. Tim Howard never regained his self-assuredness after he parried Benny McCarthy’s free-kick in that sliding doors moment against Porto and Roy Carroll actually started that year’s spirited FA Cup semi-final win over Arsenal. Ferguson selected Howard for the final but introduced Carroll late on in the second-half stroll against Millwall.
United eventually found panacea for their Peter Schmeichel problem in Edwin van der Sar in 2005, but by then Cech had hoisted the Premier League trophy, having conceded just 15 times in Chelsea’s 95-points season under Mourinho. He only shipped 22 goals in the league the following season.
Cech was never as intimidating a presence after he fractured his skull at Reading in September 2006 but he and Chelsea still finished above Ferguson’s United in 2010 under Carlo Ancelotti. Cech faced United in an FA Cup final, Champions League final and League Cup semi-final.
Beyond the league wins and cup ties, there were memorable – and crucial – saves from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2005 League Cup semi-final and Javier Hernandez in the 2013 FA Cup quarter-final replay at Stamford Bridge.
Although United signed Howard from the New York MetroStars in 2003, Ferguson revealed he watched Cech turn out for League 1 club Rennes that same year. Ferguson was familiar with Rennes’ talent pool, having attempted to sign Julien Escude in 2002. The Cech lesson effectively convinced Ferguson to sign David de Gea in 2011.
“I went to see him in 2003 for Rennes,” Ferguson wrote in Leading. “We thought Petr was a bit young for the bruisers of the Premier League. He was 19 at the time and I said to myself, ‘He’s too young’.
“So age doesn’t matter when you have the ability of a goalkeeper like Petr Cech or, we know, David de Gea has.” In 2010, Ferguson voted Cech as the best goalkeeper in Europe.
Cech played against United 27 times for Chelsea and won 13 of them.
Source: Manchester Evening News
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