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United focused on retaining top spot

Manchester United FC may have accomplished their main objective by qualifying for the last 16 but the holders will be determined not to slip up against Aalborg BK on Matchday 6 and surrender top spot in Group E.

Action from the first match in Denmark
Action from the first match in Denmark ©Getty Images

Manchester United FC may have accomplished their main objective by qualifying for the UEFA Champions League's last 16 but Sir Alex Ferguson's men will be determined not to slip up against Aalborg BK and surrender first place in Group E to Villarreal CF.

• United stand level on nine points with the Spanish Liga team following their 0-0 draw at El Madrigal on 25 November, their superior goal difference ensuring their hold on top spot. To stay there, they need only match Villarreal's result at Celtic FC while maintaining this greater goal difference.

• Given the head-to-head rule does not apply after the teams' two stalemates, United are in pole position with a goal difference of plus six to Villarreal's plus four. That said, should Villarreal draw level on goal difference, they would leapfrog United by virtue of having scored more.

• With the competition's most miserly defence, United – who have conceded just one goal in five games – will be confident of preserving the status quo in the section and qualifying in first place for the third consecutive campaign. If they do keep another clean sheet, they will record their best ever defensive performance in a UEFA Champions League group stage, surpassing the two goals conceded in 2003/04.

• Ironically, the last team to concede just once in six group games was Villarreal, when they eliminated United in the 2005/06 season. United's Premier League rivals Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC also let in just one goal in that season's group stage.

• United's 17-match unbeaten run at home in the competition augurs well for their prospects against a visiting side who have never recorded an away win in Europe's élite club competition and who, moreover, have guaranteed themselves third place whatever happens on Matchday 6.

• AaB secured third position, and the accompanying berth in the UEFA Cup, by coming from behind to beat Celtic 2-1 on Matchday 5, Caca's 73rd-minute strike and an 87th-minute Gary Caldwell own goal earning the Danish champions a three-point lead over their opponents and, crucially, a superior head-to-head record.

• Boosted by that first victory in Group E, caretaker coach Allan Kuhn will hope his charges can give United a tougher game than they managed when the sides met in Denmark on 30 September. The UEFA Champions League holders were comfortable winners that evening over opponents still under the management of Bruce Rioch, prevailing 3-0 through goals from Wayne Rooney (22) and Dimitar Berbatov (55, 79).

• United have beaten comfortably the two previous Danish visitors to Old Trafford. Most recently, they defeated FC København 3-0 in the 2006/07 group stage, Paul Scholes, John O'Shea and Kieran Richardson getting the goals.

• Looking further back to the 1998/99 group stage, Sir Alex's team overwhelmend Brøndby IF 5-0 on an evening where they hit four inside the opening 28 minutes through David Beckham, Andrew Cole, Phil Neville and Dwight Yorke, before Scholes added number five in the second period. Along with Scholes, current squad members Wes Brown and Gary Neville also featured in the game, the former as a substitute.

• United striker Berbatov found the net against AaB on their last visit to England for a UEFA Cup group-stage tie against Tottenham Hotspur FC on 29 November last year. The Danish team led 2-0 at White Hart Lane through first-half goals from Thomas Enevoldsen and Kasper Risgård but Berbatov's 46th-minute strike gave renewed hope to a Tottenham side who eventually ran out 3-2 winners.

• Besides Tottenham, the only other English club AaB have faced previously are Everton FC, their opponents in the 1966/67 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup first round. After a goalless draw in Denmark, they lost 2-1 at Goodison Park where Bjarne Lildballe struck for the visitors either side of goals from Johnny Morrissey and Alan Ball.

• The draw for the UEFA Champions League first knockout round will take place at 12.00CET on Friday 19 December at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Group winners will be paired against runners-up from different sections with the second-placed teams playing the first leg at home. Clubs from the same associations cannot be drawn together.