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Fergie's home comfort

Destiny may be on Sir Alex's side this time

By Steven Beacom

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes his team have the ammunition to beat Barcelona tonight and reach the Champions League final in Moscow.

Furious after his side's 2-1 defeat on Saturday at Chelsea which kept the Premiership race alive, Fergie has been in defiant form ahead of the second leg of the semi-final at Old Trafford.

He has laughed off suggestions that United are cracking and is confident his side will hit back in style.

And the Scot will tell his players there is no better place than the Theatre of Dreams to do it.

United's away form in the league has dipped but there is no disputing that on their home turf, it is a different story, especially in Europe.

And Ferguson is looking for his side to make it 12 straight home wins in the competition when they face Barcelona. That would see them progress to the final in Moscow - and an all Barclays Premier League showdown against either Liverpool or Chelsea - following the 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp.

Ferguson is relishing the battle with Barca. Expect him to change his tactics from last week when United were surprisingly defensive. Tonight they intend going at the visitors right from the off.

Ferguson said: "It will be a very balanced game, an open game, a fascinating game.

"It will be tactical at times and given nights like this, the fans can have an impact on our team.

"We have a marvellous record at home. We are proud of it and want to keep it going."

United went out at the semi-final stage last season to AC Milan but Ferguson insists: "We have a very good team and some big-game players who can hurt any team. We have a chance, a marvellous chance.

"While we have been unlucky in some semi-finals, Milan were much better prepared than us last season. We now have a bigger squad and that helps us."

The main man in that squad is of course Cristiano Ronaldo. He missed an early penalty in the first leg but after the final whistle promised that he would score in the return. If he doesn't deliver for United tonight, he is going to face criticism, especially if like in the Nou Camp, Barcelona's Lionel Messi outshines him.

Wayne Rooney (hip) and Nemanja Vidic (face) are doubtful for the match after missing training yesterday having picked up injuries at Stamford Bridge.

In his heart of hearts, Ferguson believes even without them United will beat West Ham and Wigan to win the title, so if they have any chance both the influential Rooney and Vidic will play this evening, so desperate is Ferguson to reach his first Champions League decider since 1999.

Top German official Herbert Fandel will be in charge tonight, and Ferguson said: "The referee's performance is always important. They have a big part to play in football matches, particularly major matches. This referee has experience of big games, so it is a big responsibility."

And there will be massive responsibility on both sets of players. It is 50 years since the Munich air disaster and 40 since United first won the European Cup. Destiny may just be on Fergie's side.

Belfast Telegraph


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