Marseille coach Didier Deschamps does not feel Manchester United are sprinkled with the same stardust of old — but they are no less effective as a result.
The man once dismissively dubbed “a water carrier” by Eric Cantona must pit his wits with Sir Alex Ferguson in the Stade Velodrome tonight as Manchester United resume their latest quest to win the Champions League.
They will do so without seven key members of their squad, including Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Antonio Valencia, who could come into contention for the second leg in three weeks' time as he edges towards recovery from a serious ankle injury.
Yet, even with those players, Deschamps believes it is not a United squad glittering with brilliance, the mesmeric skills of Cristiano Ronaldo replaced by a more functional approach that saw the Premier League leaders concede just one goal during the opening group phase.
“The winning culture is part of the DNA at a club like Manchester United,” said Deschamps.
“They always have talented players and people such as Nani, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov can make the difference at any time. I have heard a lot about the style of play, but the most important thing is winning games.
“I concentrate on the fact they conceded one goal in six games. Maybe there is less fantasy about them than there was in the past but the Marseille team I was part of in 1993 wasn't the nicest and we still won the European Cup.”
Meanwhile, holders Inter Milan have home advantage in the first leg of their last 16 clash against last season’s runners-up, Bayern Munich.