Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping Manchester United FC can rise to the challenge of another high-profile game against SL Benfica, with his side having gone five games without conceding a goal as they take on the Lisbon giants in UEFA Champions League. However, visiting coach Jorge Jesus has hatched a plan to earn the win that would see Benfica finish top of Group C.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson
It's a big game, a game we recognise as a real European game given the history of Benfica and ourselves. There've been loads of great games between the sides that always stick in the memory, such as one we lost 2-1 over there [on 7 December 2005].
In the first match over there [this season] we did well and our possession was good. We deserved the [1-1] result except for maybe the last 15 minutes, when they had a few chances. It should be an open match, both teams want to win, but hopefully we can get the right result tomorrow.
Clean sheets are a team effort [United have five in a row in all competitions]. You need to have everyone working very hard off the ball, and when you have it you need to retain it. That's been happening the last few weeks – everyone works hard off the ball and then you hope you can produce enough football to win the game. Players addressed the situation well [after the 6-1 home defeat by Manchester City FC] – the reaction has been good.
We've won five games in a row, so that points to having momentum. We've been playing good football at times and, most importantly, been controlling games.
Saturday: Swansea City AFC 0-1 Manchester United (Hernández 11)
De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidić, Evra (Fabio 51); Nani, Carrick, Giggs (Fletcher 76), Park; Rooney, Hernández (Valencia 84)
• United stayed five points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with their first win at Swansea; their eight previous visits to south Wales had ended in two draws and six defeats.
Wayne Rooney should feature despite missing Monday's training session because of "a few knocks" picked up on Saturday against Swansea, according to Sir Alex. Similarly Jonny Evans' tight hamstring should not keep him out, and Rafael is fit to return. Anderson is missing along with long-term absentees Michael Owen (thigh) and Tom Cleverley (left foot) while Chris Smalling (foot fracture) will not be back before the weekend at the earliest despite training on Monday.
Coach Jorge Jesus
We know they are a strong team but we're very motivated by being in the Champions League: the players all want to play well. They're a very good team but we're also very strong opponents. A good result for us tomorrow would be a win and finishing in first place. Our minimum aim is to get through the group phase. United are playing at home and are the favourites, so we'll have to be very strong. I repeat, our best result is a win; we have a plan, and as long as the players follow that plan – in defence and attack – we can win the game.
A lot of people say that the Premier League is the best league in the world but I don't agree. Manchester United are different, though – a special case. That's why they've won so much; they've got different ideas, a different pedigree. They're also better technically this season and are keeping the ball better; in every game they have 60-70% possession which is very difficult.
The leagues in Spain, Germany and Italy are much stronger in terms of technical and tactical ability than in England, which in my opinion makes them much more difficult leagues. However, the fact that there are now so many foreign players and managers in England now means that the technical and tactical standard is improving.
Friday: A. Naval 1º de Maio 0-1 Benfica (Rodrigo 82)
Eduardo; Miguel Vítor (David Simão 81), Luisão, Garay, Capdevila; Javi García; Ruben Amorim, Aimar (Bruno César 61); Nolito, Rodrigo Mora (Rodrigo 80), Nélson Oliveira
• Victory in the Portuguese Cup fourth round extended Benfica's unbeaten start to the season to 20 games in all competitions. Rodrigo Mora made his first start for the club on Friday.
Javier Saviola (left knee sprain) has not travelled to Manchester, with Enzo Peréz (right knee surgery) and Nemanja Matić (right thigh) also missing out.
United have prevailed in six of the clubs' eight past encounters, starting with a quarter-final triumph in the 1965/66 European Champion Clubs' Cup and continuing with their 1967/68 final success at Wembley as the English side captured the trophy for the first time.
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