United boss insists his side can handle the pressure as the run-in begins to heat up
MANCHESTER UTD vs MARSEILLE
MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson admits it’s “squeaky bum time” again as his side aim to step up their pursuit of the second treble of his reign this evening.
United booked their place in the semi final of the FA Cup at the weekend and maintain a three point lead at the head of the Premier League. Tonight attention turns to continental matters with the three-times European Cup winners looking to capitalise on the goalless draw they secured in Marseille three weeks ago.
But Ferguson is sage enough to know the French champions offer a real threat to his side’s Champions League ambitions, but is confident his players will again thrive on the pressure that accompanies matches of this magnitude during the decisive period of the campaign, which Ferguson famously labeled “squeaky bum time” during the 2003 run-in.
He said: “We are experienced enough to do what we are doing at the moment and that is taking each game as it comes. That’s why the focus is on Marseille because we know it is going to be a hard game.
“It is nice to have a bit of apprehension about big ties, though. European games are always that way. It won’t be any different. We are playing a very experienced, powerful Marseille team. We will have to play well.
“I have watched them twice away from home against Monaco and against Rennes and they showed the qualities we will be up against.
“I thought Marseille were going for the 0-0 at home I must admit. Maybe they are the ones who are confident. They are a good team, who will try to hit us on the counter.
“In these games at Old Trafford and a home match in midweek it is always a terrific atmosphere. That does help us and hopefully we will get the result we want.” United will be boosted by the return of Nani, less than a fortnight since he suffered a leg injury – inflicted by an awful tackle from Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher – which many feared would rule him out for the rest of the season.
“There’s a good chance Nani will be involved,” confirmed Ferguson. “He and Michael Carrick trained on Sunday. Both will be involved tonight.
“The important thing is to have all the players fit and available for the run-in. If we can do that then it will definitely increase our chances of winning trophies.”
A goalless draw away from home in the first leg is often regarded as a dangerous scoreline and United have shown on occasion in the past why that’s the case. Moreover, even when they’ve managed to grab an away goal they haven’t always progressed.
1998: United came through unscathed on a concrete surface in Monaco but their defences were breached by a David Trezeguet thunderbolt early in the return leg. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer equalised in the second half but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side exited on away goals.
2000: A superb display from Mark Bosnich helped United restrict Real Madrid in the Bernabeu but he was beaten by his own captain, Roy Keane, early in the return. A Raul brace stretched Real’s advantage and rendered two late consolation goals irrelevant.
2004: A Benni McCarthy brace turned the first leg in Porto on its head, but Paul Scholes’ goal in the return looked to be sending United through, only for Costinha’s last gasp effort to send Ferguson’s side crashing out and spark an infamous touchline jig from Jose Mourinho.