Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium will be the biggest ever clash between the two old rivals. Ferguson has clashed with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger on 39 occasions, with both chieftains winning 14 each, the other 10 resulting in draws. However, the Scot feels that the 40th clash between the pair is the most important of them all, as United aim to become the first team to ever defend the Champions League. “There is no question that the clashes we have had in the past with Arsenal will not reach the proportion of this one,” he said.
“It is strange that no-one has defended the trophy. It is a challenge. I am expecting a very close game. You cannot call it.” The Red Devils take a one-goal lead to the North London, with Ferguson confident that one away goal would put United within touching distance of a second successive final.
“We have the ability to score and if we did it would put us in a very strong position," he said.
“We are in a good place going into the game. We have a lead and we are only one kick away from Rome. It is a big incentive for us.” However, Arsenal boss Wenger feels his side has what it takes to overturn United’s lead from the first leg at Old Trafford.
“I’m very confident that the team will produce a magnificent performance,” he said.
“We play at home, where we have a strong Champions League record. For many people we are super-outsiders, but I personally believe we can do it.” It is nearly five years since Arsenal last beat United by two goals, a 3-1 win in the 2004 Community Shield. But Wenger says Arsenal’s recent form will stand them in good stead, should United get the goal Fergie desires.
“If I had said in November that we will be in the semi-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup and go 21 games unbeaten, as we have in the Premier League, you’d have called an ambulance!” he said.
“I feel very proud of this team because they have been through difficult periods and shown great mental strength.
“They have faced much more adversity than all the other teams I have had here. The progress this team has made since the start of the season has been remarkable.”
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