Semi-final second leg (first leg: Barcelona 0-0 Manchester United)
Sir Alex Ferguson has called on his Manchester United side to seize a “marvellous chance” to reach the Champions League final in the second leg of their semi-final against Barcelona.
United fell at this stage to Milan last season, but Ferguson believes they have what it takes to prevail after last Wednesday’s 0-0 draw in Spain.
“We’ve got big-game players, we’ve got players who can win matches,” said the United boss, who has overseen eleven straight home wins in Europe.
United’s manager described their first-leg display as “probably our poorest in Europe this season” but, after another cautious showing in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea, United are expected to once again embrace their attacking inclinations.
“I think it’ll be more open than it was at the Nou Camp and it could go either way, but I think we are going into the game with a marvellous chance,” he added. “It will be tactical at times but there will be times when there will be the explosions of play that we expect from our team.”
“I know we can play a lot better and will do so. We will not make the same mistakes.
“The players are well aware they underperformed in certain areas and I know they are determined to put things right.
“They won’t let anyone down – I am sure of that.”
Ferguson’s preparations have not been helped by worries over the fitness of Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic, who missed training on Monday with hip and mouth injuries respectively.
“Both could make it but I can’t be certain about that,” he said.
Defeat by Chelsea at the weekend – their third successive match without victory – has convinced some observers that United are crumbling at the wrong time of the season. However, Ferguson brushed off suggestions that his team were about to crack under the pressure of pursuing a domestic and European double.
“We are sitting here right now with two [league] games left, we’ve a semi-final, a home game on Saturday and a game against Wigan away – disaster,” he smiled.
Certainly, his Barcelona counterpart Frank Rijkaard would be happy to be sitting in Ferguson’s shoes. Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Deportivo La Coruna left them with just one win in eleven domestic outings.
“I prefer to concentrate on the present – we have a very important game, we will be fighting our hardest to make sure things go well and we can draw a conclusion on the season later,” said the Dutchman.
“We have to score at the very least and it is important to impose our own game – to be brave and get hold of the ball and not let them impose their game,” added Rijkaard, who also acknowledged that it was not in his team’s nature to play defensively.
“No, that’s not our style. We always try to play football,” he was quick to point out.
It remains to be seen whether Rijkaard, who is boosted by the return from suspension of Carles Puyol, will retain Andres Iniesta on the left or give Thierry Henry the chance to renew his rivalry with United.