Quarter-final first leg – kick-off: 19-45 (BST)
Manchester United have only 48 hours’ recovery time since the visit of Aston Villa and their quarter-final first leg against FC Porto but manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes his European champions will enter Tuesday’s tie buoyed by Sunday’s events at Old Trafford.
When Federico Macheda, making his debut for United, struck three minutes into added time to secure a thrilling 3-2 comeback win, he restored self-belief to United.
“You have to say that winning goal has just galvanised the club,” said Sir Alex, who went on to describe it as a “defining moment” in their campaign.
From staring a third successive defeat in the face with eleven minutes remaining, United were celebrating the kind of victory that has characterised the club under the Scot.
“We survived some hairy moments but when it went to 2-1 then you saw Manchester United, the risk came out, everyone started playing with abandon,” he said. “We are sending some of our supporters into cardiac treatment, including the manager, but it is fantastic to watch.”
Ferguson, who said man-of-the-moment Macheda can expect a place on the bench, hopes the return of Wayne Rooney, suspended on Sunday together with Paul Scholes and Nemanja Vidic, will energise the side, although Dimitar Berbatov misses out with an ankle injury.
“Our team will now hopefully start going into overdrive,” said the 67-year-old.
He must hope his suddenly fragile defence starts to reproduce the form that saw them set a record of 1,334 minutes without conceding earlier in the season. United have let in eight goals in the last three domestic outings and even if Vidic returns and Rio Ferdinand shrugs off a groin problem, they cannot afford to repeat recent frailties against opponents who have registered two goals in each of their last three European away games.
The in-form Portuguese champions secured an eighth successive league away win on Saturday in beating Vitoria 3-1, and their coach, Jesualdo Ferreira, arrived promising an attacking outlook.
“English teams play with speed and high intensity at home but we must not lose our identity,” he said. “We have an attacking spirit, we are not going to change and we will play to win. We want a victory above all but to score a goal will be important.”
Porto famously eliminated United when these sides met in the 2003-04 Round of 16, their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford securing a 3-2 aggregate success.
It was the only time they have avoided defeat on eleven previous visits to England but Ferreira, who could start with a front three of Hulk, Lisandro and Cristián Rodríguez, is determined his players are not overwhelmed by the occasion.
“We are top of our league and want to show what we can do.”
Ferguson is certainly not underestimating tonight’s opponents.
“The first thing Cristiano [Ronaldo] said to me when we had the draw is ‘this is a difficult game’. We have watched them and they are a difficult side. Physically they are very strong, and Hulk up front is a very good player.”