United continue to reap reward on European travels

MANCHESTER - Manchester United's consistently good away form in Europe, underlined by a 1-0 win over Rangers that secured a Champions League last 16 place on Wednesday, continues to satisfy manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

"We've found a way of playing in Europe away from home, there's a good composure in the team and we can quieten an atmosphere. We are good at these certain types of games," said the Scot after victory at Ibrox.

Ferguson, who first won the Champions League in 1999, sees the 3-0 semi-final second leg defeat to AC Milan at the San Siro in 2007 as pivotal to the emergence of the current team's mind-set.

Leading 3-2 from the first leg, they were two goals down within half an hour as they struggled to cope with the onslaught of the Italians.

Since then Ferguson has regularly employed a fluid 4-5-1 formation for United's toughest away matches, although he paired Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov in attack for the 1-0 win in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Playing with a lone striker has enabled his side to get men behind the ball and soak up pressure, while retaining a strong threat on the break and being able to maintain possession for long periods.

The flexibility and work-rate of the likes of Ji-Sung Park and Ryan Giggs have been key to getting the best out the system that has once again established United as regulars in the closing stages of the Champions League.

It has been so successful that until the 2-1 defeat at Bayern Munich in March, they were unbeaten in 16 European away matches, keeping clean sheets in nine of those games.

United have now won all three of their three Champions League away matches this season following earlier successes at Bursaspor and Valencia.

Ferguson regularly expresses his frustration at not having more than two Champions League trophies to show for almost of a quarter of a century at Old Trafford.

But he feels the win over Rangers was another sign of the growing maturity of his team, who have not lost in 28 matches in all competitions.

"Our away form in Europe has been very good over the years," Ferguson said. "But for that injury-time goal against Bayern, we've had a fantastic record that has stretched three years."

United are level on points with Premier League leaders Chelsea but Ferguson has warned that his team can perform better than they have done so far this season.

"It's not all been black and we've had some good performances this season," he added.

"But we're looking for better rhythm to our game. When we get a rhythm we are a very good team but we're searching for that a little bit at the moment."


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