Sir Alex: We can rule Europe
Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United can win the Champions League this season – if the Reds can next knock out one of the favourites in Real Madrid.
The runaway leaders of the English league lined up Wednesday’s clash with the Spanish champions by racing through the group stage, qualifying well before Christmas with a couple of games to spare. Sir Alex’s men have since demonstrated their powers on the domestic stage, going 12 points clear of Manchester City in the table and marching into the last 16 of the FA Cup.
“Our team is capable of winning the Champions League,” said Sir Alex at a pre-match press conference in Madrid. “There is a great spirit about the players.
“People keep saying we’re not as good as past United teams but sometimes we get foggy impressions about the past and I do so myself at times.
“The reality is this team doesn’t know when it’s beaten which is a great quality.
“The acid test is tomorrow and we have to get through it if we are to win this trophy.”
The United boss is buoyed not only by form, but by the fitness of his squad with Paul Scholes being the only notable absentee from the plane to Spain.
“I think it’s a good time for us to be playing Real Madrid,” said Sir Alex. “We have a fantastic lead in our league and we have everyone fit. When you come to this part of the season you [often] have two or three players injured. We don’t have that, which is a bonus.
“We’re ready for tomorrow. Since the Champions League started, almost every year we have played one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“When I started as a coach many years ago, I dreamt I’d be playing against the top teams as a manager and you get the opportunity to do that in the Champions League on a regular basis.
“There is a special significance when you play the big teams and you’ll see that tomorrow. It’s just a shame we and Real are meeting this early. I wish it had been at Wembley, in the final.”
When asked what kind of game he expects, Sir Alex replied:
“It won’t be 0-0 tomorrow night, I can assure you of that. This match can live up to expectations. History always plays a part in this type of game, as does the two teams’ desire to go forward.
“Real Madrid are one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe. Their speed from box to box is fantastic. But we have to play our own game too. Our intention is to win and to score.”
As ever, the United manager kept his team-selection cards close to his chest, although he did indicate there could be at least one change from the line-up which overcame Everton at the weekend.
“We didn’t play Shinji Kagawa on Sunday because he had a long trip back from Japan,” said Sir Alex. “I wanted him fresh in case I decide to use him tomorrow so I rested him against Everton. He will certainly be involved at some stage tomorrow.”