Both Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson and Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, whose teams faced each other Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League semifinals, know a perfect season. In 1999, Ferguson's United won three major trophies -- the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League -- a success that's yet to be matched in Europe in the modern age. In 2006, Rijkaard's men, led by the imperious Ronaldinho, lifted both the La Liga and Champions League titles. Rijkaard, however, admits that he's still a long way from being the manager that Ferguson has been for the Red Devils.
"It's not for nothing that they say it's easier to get to the top than to stay at the top," Rijkaard tells the Telegraph in an interview. "He has achieved everything and he is still going strong. He is one of those people who represents football. He is football. He lives football. It is his life." Since reaching the top in 2006, Barcelona has known nothing but disappointment. Barca barely missed out on the La Liga title in 2007, and 2008 has been a wash for Rijkaard's men. Eleven points behind league leader Real Madrid, Barca cannot win the title this year, which means the Champions League is Rijkaard's last shot at a trophy.
Ferguson, meanwhile, is having another great season with United, which is favored to win the Premier League. "Manchester United are a good collective," Rijkaard says. "They all work really, really hard for each other and it is that team spirit and organization that makes them something special, along with the extra qualities of some of their players."