As his side prepared to to complete the group stage with tonight’s game against AaB, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is confident they are better placed to retain the trophy than they were after their 1999 triumph.
Reflecting on his side’s success in qualifying from Group E with a game to spare, United’s manager said: “We have a good squad that has quality in depth as well as being bigger than last year’s. We are certainly better equipped to defend our trophy than we were after winning it in 1999.”
Ferguson stressed the importance of ensuring they maintain first place in the group ahead of Villarreal who visit Celtic and whom they lead on goal difference.
“It’s always better to be No1,” he said. “Our experiences of being second have not been good over the years. It’s better we win the group and then we know we have a home leg in the second game in the last 16.”
United are without Michael Carrick and have doubts over Cristiano Ronaldo, victim of a hip injury in Saturday’s 1-0 win against Sunderland.
AaB coach Allan Kuhn, who replaced Bruce Rioch following the 6-3 defeat at Villarreal in late October, has overseen a run that has seen the side go eleven matches unbeaten.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved,” said Kuhn who, despite the loss of experienced midfielder Andreas Johansson to suspension, warned that AaB were now “a much better side” than when going down 3-0 at home to United in September.
“It will be great to come to Old Trafford and we won’t let ourselves down, we promise you that 100 per cent,” added Kuhn.
“We’re not afraid to go out there, that’s the most important thing, and we’ll all do our best to put on a good performance.
“If we can hold them away from our goal for the first 15 minutes and keep possession we will give ourselves a chance.”