Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Ferguson relishes Manchester derby build-up

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson does not believe Manchester United will be at a disadvantage in this weekend's eagerly-anticipated derby clash with City because of their Champions League commitment in Turkey.

The length of journey United were required to undertake for their opening game in this season's competition against Besiktas meant they flew out on Sunday, preferring to remain in London following Saturday's win at Tottenham.

Ferguson has decided his players should leave immediately after their European opener though, meaning they will not arrive back in Manchester until after 4am on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, City have been resting up, even if they remain in the dark over Emmanuel Adebayor's likely availability as the FA have yet to decide whether to take action against the Togo striker for his alleged stamp on Robin van Persie.

Yet Ferguson feels his players have the experience to cope. And, while he might have lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez from the squad that reached last season's final in Rome, the United boss is convinced he has the strength to survive.

“The squad I have, it doesn't make any difference to us,” he said.

“We have from Tuesday until Sunday to prepare for the next game. That is ample time.

“In any case, it won't be the same team. That is why you have a squad.”

Under normal circumstances Paul Scholes would join Ryan Giggs on the sidelines, both men having started at White Hart Lane.

Scholes' dismissal, which Ferguson remains unhappy about, means he will not be facing City, so he could have the unusual experience of starting two successive games.

The veteran midfielder's experience could come in handy as United look to silence what is claimed to be the most volatile set of supporters in Europe, who will provide what Ferguson accepts will be an atmosphere unique to Turkey.

“The fans have incredible fanaticism,” he observed.

“I have been here four times, twice each to Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. From my past experiences the fans come to the stadium at 12 o'clock. It is amazing.

“It shows you the passion they have for their clubs.”

As Besiktas' recent form is awful, culminating in a three-goal defeat to Galatasaray at the weekend, the test for United should come from the stands.

Ferguson was sitting next to Ben Foster, one of the men who has not experienced it before, and jokingly warned the England goalkeeper he should get an early night.

It is a step into the unknown for more than just Foster though.

United's performance at Tottenham was the first sign they can still play with style following Ronaldo's departure. Now they need all their famous grit, while also finding the goals their now departed Portuguese superstar was able to provide so consistently.

“You don't like losing players of that calibre. But he has moved on and so must we,” stressed Ferguson.

“It is early of course and it is difficult to quantify Saturday's performance.

“But we have a young team, with young players, who are improving all the time.

“On top of the experience we have it gives us a very solid strong and powerful squad.”

Even without Ronaldo, United will start their quest to reach a third final on the trot as one of the favourites.

The remaining English trio are bound to be respected too given the Premier League has supplied three semi-finalists for three seasons running.

Yet holders Barcelona set a standard that needs to be matched with their comprehensive destruction of Ferguson's team in Rome, while big-spending Real Madrid, with Ronaldo and Kaka leading the Galacticos II era, offer a large chunk of the unknown.

“I can't answer that,” replied Ferguson when asked how he thought Real would do.

“The truth is I simply don't know.

“There is a new team bedding down and the coach has to make some decisions about his team.

“It is easier to talk about teams who have been there two or three years in terms of the harmony of their team and the balance of their team.

“Barcelona fall into that category and they must be one of the favourites.”

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