Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini has ruled out the possibility of his side playing out a draw against Manchester United – even though such a result would ensure qualification for the knockout stages for both sides.
“The worst possible way to qualify for the next round would be to go out and try to play for a draw,” he said on the eve of the match at El Madrigal.
“It’s an intelligent thing to try and win the group because it brings you a slight advantage later in the tournament. While it wouldn’t be any kind of disaster to go through in second place, the fact is that a victory over Manchester United would be an excellent result for us.”
Pellegrini confessed his admiration for the way in which United manager Sir Alex Ferguson encourages his sides to attack.
“Alex Ferguson’s teams always go after the game, they play to win,” he said. “That makes their speed of moving the ball and their determination to win the ball back very quickly once they’ve lost it a real test to play against. I’ve got great admiration for the style of football he demands from his side.”
Ferguson was equally enthusiastic about the transformation Pellegrini had achieved at Villarreal.
“There are good signs that Manuel is creating his own identity at Villarreal,” Sir Alex said.
“You get that with Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, you got it with Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest and perhaps you get that with me at United. He’s doing the same thing. To finish second in their league without the massive resources of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Valencia is tremendous and born of fantastic consistency.”
United are looking for a victory tonight to cement their position at the top of Group E.
“We’re here to win,” he said. “The derby game won’t come into my thinking because there are five days between the matches. It’s important to me that we finish top of Group E.”
Both sides will have to cope without several key players tonight.
The holders travelled to Spain without goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who will be replaced by Tomasz Kuszczak, Gary Neville and Dimitar Berbatov, while strikers Nihat Kahveci and Joseba Llorente, who has three goals in Group E, are both missing for Villarreal.