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All still to play for, says Ferguson

Published: Wednesday 24 April 2002, 23.40CET
Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United FC's UEFA Champions League dream remains alive. features

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Published: Wednesday 24 April 2002, 23.40CET

All still to play for, says Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United FC's UEFA Champions League dream remains alive.

Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that the UEFA Champions League semi-final tie with Bayer 04 Leverkusen was far from over after Wednesday's 2-2 draw.

'There will be goals'
Leverkusen twice came from behind to earn a draw at Old Trafford, scoring two away goals to take into the second leg at the BayArena next Tuesday, but Ferguson remained confident that his side could get a result in Germany. "We're very much still in this tie," he said. "There will be goals over there, that's for sure. We've got the spirit here and hopefully that will help us on Tuesday."

'We will score'
"I think they were the better side in the second half certainly," he added. "I thought we got nervous defending, but it's halfway. I know they were celebrating at the end of the game but there's a second leg and, one thing is for sure, we will score. They have got an advantage but so did Juventus FC against us three years ago [when United won the second leg in Turin 3-2]. The nature of these games is if you score away from home, it makes an impact and they got great confidence from scoring their first goal."

Away strength
Ferguson now faces the prospect of United having to win in Leverkusen - or achieve a score draw of at least 2-2 - to reach the final, but he is not too daunted by the task. "It is not going to be easy because their home record is very good but if we do score, and I am sure we will, it does change the complexion of the game," said Ferguson. "Plus the fact that I think that we will play better and we have done very well away from home."

Neville stretchered off
United's difficult evening against the 1. Bundesliga leaders left an even more sour taste in the manager's mouth after it was revealed that defender Gary Neville, who was carried off on a stretcher after just 18 minutes, had suffered a serious injury. The England defender was taken to hospital after leaving the pitch in obvious discomfort and Ferguson said that he was now certain to miss the remainder of his side's Champions League and FA Premiership campaign.

Beckham injury
"Unfortunately he's got a broken metatarsal, believe it or not," said the manager. "It's quite incredible. He'll probably be out for the same time as David [Beckham]." Beckham was forced to watch the game from the stands as he recovers from the broken bone in his foot, but Roy Keane - who was injured in the first leg of the quarter-final against RC Deportivo La Coruña - made a surprise return as a second-half substitute. "You have to be very disappointed for Gary Neville," admitted the Republic of Ireland captain. "Maybe he will draw on what happened to me and take strength from that same scenario but he is a top player and will bounce back."

'We are always confident'
Keane's arrival, along with that of Denis Irwin who made a record 70th appearance for United in Europe, could not change the course of the game after Oliver Neuville had levelled the scores for Leverkusen after 75 minutes. However, the combative midfield player was in no mood for giving in, saying: "Of course we are disappointed with the result. It is very disappointing in a semi-final at home to lose two goals but it is only half-time. We were open at times but that is the way we play and it should be a great game next Tuesday. It is going to be a test of character - there is not a lot between the two teams and it will come down to who wants it more. We are always confident and we know we can bounce back."

World stage
Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller was delighted with his side's performance in their first Champions League semi-final. "We knew playing in the semi-final in front of the whole world that this was a chance for individuals and the team to make themselves known," he said. "We played in a very compact fashion and early on in the game we caused problems for United."

Mixed fortunes
He admitted that luck had balanced itself out over the course of the game after United's slightly fortunate opening goal. "We were very unlucky with their first goal," he said. "It would have gone past the post if it had not been deflected and we missed the golden chance in the first half with [Dimitar] Berbatov's header. I was worried about United's counterattacking strength but we had some luck with the second equalising goal with the ball coming out twice for Neuville to score."

'They are a top team'
However, despite the scenes of jubilation after the final whistle in Manchester, Toppmöller was in no doubt that the overall tie was far from over. "They are a top team and are capable of gaining a result in Leverkusen," he said.

Last updated: 25/04/02 17.58CET

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