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United lead push for last 16

Published: Tuesday 23 November 2004, 5.39CET
Manchester United FC are one of several teams aiming to book a place in the last 16 on Tuesday night. features

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Published: Tuesday 23 November 2004, 5.39CET

United lead push for last 16

Manchester United FC are one of several teams aiming to book a place in the last 16 on Tuesday night.
It is likely that only victory over Olympique Lyonnais will give Sir Alex Ferguson cause to celebrate tonight, despite reaching a milestone of 1,000 matches in charge of Manchester United FC.

'Perfect game'
The 62-year-old Scot becomes only the third manager in English football - after Sir Matt Busby, another United legend, and Crewe Alexandra FC's Dario Gradi - to achieve this feat and he described the visit of Group D leaders Lyon as "probably the perfect game for my 1,000th match, a European tie".

These words underlined Sir Alex's ambition to succeed again in the UEFA Champions League, which United won in 1999. He expressed his belief yesterday that United should have recorded more than two triumphs in the premier European club competition, claiming the Old Trafford side "should have won this trophy as many times as" FC Bayern München, AFC Ajax and AC Milan.

Immediate goal
If a third European crown is the target, the immediate goal is to join Lyon in the last 16 and even if they lose tonight, United will take second place should third-placed Fenerbahçe SK fail to beat AC Sparta Praha. However, if United do not win and Fenerbahçe pick up three points, the clubs' Matchday 6 meeting in Istanbul will decide their fates.

Group A pair hopeful
Ferguson did not mention United's old rivals Liverpool FC in his list of notable champions but the four-times winners can also progress to the knockout rounds from Group A tonight, with victory at AS Monaco FC. The group leaders Olympiacos CFP will qualify too, should they overcome RC Deportivo La Coruña and Monaco fail to win. Olympiacos may not have it easy, however, against a Deportivo team desperate for three points to stay alive in the competition.

'Final' in Madrid
In Group B, Real Madrid CF striker Raúl González has described the visit of their 2002 final opponents Bayer 04 Leverkusen as "another final for us". Madrid, Leverkusen and FC Dynamo Kyiv are all tied on seven points and victory for either side in the Santiago Bernabéu will secure their progress. In Kiev, a win over AS Roma will maintain Dynamo's qualifying hopes - while anything but three points will end Roma's outside chance of securing third place and entering the UEFA Cup.

Bayern hold advantage
Juventus FC have already won Group C and they welcome an Ajax team desperate to hang on to the coat-tails of second-placed Bayern. The Bavarians, who hold a three-point advantage over both Ajax and Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC, will go through if they win their home match with Maccabi and the Dutch club fail to take three points at Juventus. A draw will suffice in the event of a defeat for Ajax, whose prospects are now "remote" according to coach Ronald Koeman.

Last updated: 23/11/04 21.41CET