Ferguson To Phase Out Old Guard

APChelsea's players reacting after John Terry's miss in the penalty shootout.
After his latest Champions League triumph, Alex Ferguson plans to continue building his Manchester United side and chase more titles.

Chelsea's Avram Grant, only nine months into the job, doesn't know whether he will be with the Blues next week, never mind next season.

At age 66 and with 22 years at Old Trafford, Ferguson has averaged one title per season. He secured his second Champions League triumph early Thursday in a penalty shootout against Chelsea after a 1-1 draw -- less than two weeks after his team edged the Blues to a 10th Premier League title.

But the Scot, who also won the Champions League in 1999, believes that he has more to achieve at the club and could well still be coaching after club veterans Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have stopped playing.

"We will have a look at the players' eyes next season to make sure that the hunger is there," Ferguson said. "Defending the European Cup is not an easy thing to do. Some teams have done it. I hope we can do it.

"I think this team is good enough. I think that certain players within the team will improve immeasurably next year."

Ferguson knows that Scholes, Giggs and Neville, all well into their 30s, will be winding down their careers.

"They probably won't play so many games [next season] and will eventually be phased out as you have to do in life. Ryan is 35 this year I think, and he will play until he's 37 and maybe play 25 to 30 games a season.

"I think Paul Scholes, he's 34 in November, he'll play 35 games next season because we have the backup now to help these young lads come up."

Ferguson said sticking with players who have been with the club all their careers has been one of the reasons United has collected so many titles under his guidance.

"People like Scholes and Giggs and Neville, it's not by accident they get to stay this long at the club," he said. "They know how to conduct themselves and they know what professional football means and they know what Manchester United means."

Ferguson also said that the 50th anniversary of the Munich tragedy, in which eight of Matt Busby's young side were killed in a plane crash while returning from a European Cup game, had inspired his current team.

Busby recovered from the 1958 crash to guide the team to a European Cup triumph 10 years later at Wembley.

"We had a cause, which was very important," Ferguson said. "People with causes become difficult to battle against, and I think fate played its hand. I feel very, very proud."

The only headache Ferguson must contend with is constant pressure from Real Madrid to take Cristiano Ronaldo away from Old Trafford.

Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon said there is nothing to stop the Portuguese winger -- who scored 42 goals this season -- from leaving United if he wants to, even though he is only one year into a five-year contract. United has repeatedly said Ronaldo is not leaving, but the player is not promising anything.

"I want to stay, but the future, no one knows," said Ronaldo, who put United ahead 1-0 with a first-half header against Chelsea and missed a penalty in the shootout. "I want to stay. We are going to see in the next two weeks. I don't say I make a decision."

Grant, meanwhile, is not sure whether he will be back to challenge United again next season.

The former Israel coach, who was hired as a backup to Jose Mourinho during 2007, took over when Mourinho left in September.

Grant's dour manner and his team's style of play didn't endear him to the fans or critics, even though he came close to winning three titles in his first season in charge.

Chelsea lost to Tottenham in the League Cup final, finished a close second to United in the Premier League and only a 6-5 penalty shootout loss, in which captain John Terry slipped as he took what would have been a title-winning spot kick, gave United the Champions League title.

Russian owner Roman Abramovich hasn't decided whether to keep Grant or replace him. Inter Milan's Roberto Mancini and others have been linked with the Chelsea job.

"I'm going to the hotel. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow," Grant said after the game, adding that his job "is the last thing I am thinking about just now."

Whatever happens, Grant said it will take a long time to get over the disappointment of losing the final after Chelsea had dominated the second half.

"One penalty can make the difference between happiness to some," he said. "I do not think I will be happy again for some days, but I am very proud."