"It doesn't get any bigger than this," were the rousing words of Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who is certain his team's UEFA Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid CF will live up to its heavyweight billing.
The English side returned from the Santiago Bernabéu three weeks ago with a 1-1 draw and the scorer of Madrid's equaliser dominated Monday's press conferences: the stage is set for Cristiano Ronaldo's long-awaited Old Trafford return. Sir Alex insisted "we can't fear what Ronaldo can do to us" and counterpart José Mourinho, too, stressed that this fixture stands alone. He expects the world to sit up and take notice of a contest fit to grace this season's Wembley showpiece.
Sir Alex Ferguson, manager
Real have just played two fantastic games against Barcelona and they're hitting form at just the right time, while we've been playing consistently well for quite a while now.
It doesn't get any bigger than this game: two big clubs, two great histories, it's set up to be a marvellous game and I don't think it'll disappoint.
Real are one of best counterattacking teams in Europe. They proved that last week at the Camp Nou, when they were stunning on the break. We've got to find a way of stopping that while offering a threat ourselves. Ryan [Giggs] will be involved, whether starting or coming off the bench, and of course his experience of big-game occasions will be vital.
Whenever you prepare for an important game you have to respect the strengths of the other team, we do that with every team we play – how they set up, tactics, key players. The same applies here. We're very experienced and we know our own strengths, so we need to focus on those.
I think there will be goals, that both teams will score, so you have to think we're going to need more than one goal to go through. My biggest concern is him [Ronaldo] turning up! He'll cause us problems throughout the night, which we'll just have to limit, to curtail, the best way we can.
Rafael's experience against him in the first half in Madrid will hopefully help, as he'll have to go through it again. But we can't fear what Ronaldo can do to us, as we'll start to forget what we can do for ourselves.
Saturday: United 4-0 Norwich City FC (Kagawa 45+1 76 87, Rooney 90)
De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Vidić, Evra; Valencia, Anderson (Cleverley 74), Carrick, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie (Welbeck 66).
• Shinji Kagawa became the first player from Asia to score a Premier League hat-trick as United stretched their unbeaten run to 18 games unbeaten in all competitions since December's 1-0 loss to CFR 1907 Cluj. Sir Alex's team's haul of 71 points from 28 matches has been bettered only once in the Premier League era – Chelsea FC had 72 at the same stage in 2005/06.
Ryan Giggs is set for his 1,000th competitive fixture. Phil Jones is not yet ready to return and Paul Scholes is also absent with a knee problem.
José Mourinho, coach
I expect United to be very defensive when we have the ball, and to attack strongly when they have it. Even though we're behind in the tie and have to attack, we'll also have to defend stoutly. We come here after two important wins, but even coming here after two defeats would make no difference. It's good to have players happy, with morale high after beating their rivals [FC Barcelona] twice.
I can imagine [still being a manager at 71] as I imagine the older you are, the better you are. Sir Alex is unique and he deserves respect from everybody. My teams have played at Old Trafford so many times, so I don't care about records. I know football well enough to say anything could happen.
United are on a fantastic run, through to FA Cup quarter-finals, and have virtually sewn up the Premier League title, but we're also in good form. That's why the world will stop to watch this game, a game that's more like a final. Whichever teams reach Wembley, I can't imagine the expectation being bigger than for tomorrow. If I lose tomorrow I won't cry, if I win tomorrow I won't run 100 metres to celebrate, but the feelings will still be the same.
He [Ronaldo] seems fine as far as I'm aware. It's nice that [Sir Alex] speaks honestly about Ronaldo, as any accolades he gets from him and the crowd are more than deserved. I was here [at Chelsea] during his best years in the Premier League, so I'm aware how well he did at United and the impact he had.
Saturday: Madrid 2-1 FC Barcelona (Benzema 6, Ramos 82; Messi 18)
Diego López; Essien, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Coentrão (Arbeloa 69); Pepe; Modrić, Callejón, Kaká (Khedira 58); Morata, Benzema (Benzema 58).
• Madrid made it four wins out of four since the first leg with their second victory over the Azulgrana in four days. Álvaro Morata, making only his third start for the Merengues, set up Karim Benzema's opener before Lionel Messi restored parity. The second-half introduction of the initially rested Ronaldo provided fresh impetus and Sergio Ramos secured the points, heading in Luka Modrić's corner.
Iker Casillas is still unavailable with a broken left thumb while midfielder Xabi Alonso – who did not feature at the weekend – may well start despite carrying a long-term groin problem.
• United lost 3-2 at home to Athletic Club in last term's UEFA Europa League round of 16 and have won just one of their last five Old Trafford fixtures against Liga visitors – the 1-0 UEFA Champions League semi-final success over Barcelona in 2008, courtesy of a Scholes goal. Their overall home record against Spanish opponents is W8 D9 L3.
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