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Milan urged to pursue perfection

Leonardo says AC Milan "must be flawless" if they are to maintain their unblemished two-legged record against Manchester United FC as the clubs begin their first knockout round tie.

Milan urged to pursue perfection
Milan urged to pursue perfection ©UEFA.com

AC Milan coach Leonardo believes his side's season will turn on their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie against Manchester United FC and says they must be "flawless" in Tuesday's home leg, when many eyes will be on former Manchester United FC player David Beckham. Visiting manager Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, insisted that his team arein better shape than during their 3-0 semi-final defeat by the Rossoneri in Milan in 2006/07.

Leonardo, Milan coach
These two games against United are the most important matches for us so far, and they come at the most delicate moment of the season. They will also be crucial in determining our future. We must be almost perfect, flawless. I want to see the same performance I saw at Real Madrid during the group stage; I think that was our best game this season and when we played the best football. We must repeat that. This game is really important for me and also for some of my players who don't have much experience in European competition.

Luckily we also have experienced players who can help the team. We are not going to change our style of play, Milan usually play better against great teams like Manchester United because they play open football. It will be important not to concede goals at home, but we will also try to score. As I have said in the past, it is in our DNA to try to score goals. I will choose the starting XI in the afternoon, after the last training session. We must give everything we have and do our best.

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
Beckham left seven years ago. We move on in life: it's a different team, we have different players. I think we've developed a kind of maturity away from home in the last two years since we last met Milan. We've changed, especially from a physical point of view. This time we are more in shape.

Milan are an experienced team and we know they have wonderful players – many of them have won this trophy. Think about Seedorf; he has such experience and that's something you cannot buy. I watched the Milan derby and I saw a very good team that night. Milan have experience and in big games they give their best, so you have to be cautious. It's true that English football has dominated the last few years, but it's like a cycle: there was the Spanish era, the Italian era and so on.

Team news
Marco Borriello (knee), Gianluca Zambrotta (muscular problem)
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked:
Ignazio Abate

• Massimo Oddo and first-choice left-back Luca Antonini are available after recovering from thigh and rib injuries respectively.

• Thiago Silva limped off against Udinese Calcio on Friday night with a thigh problem but is ready to partner Alessandro Nesta in central defence.

• Klaas Jan Huntelaar is in line to take over from Borriello up front with Filippo Inzaghi on the bench.

Manchester United
John O'Shea (leg), Nemanja Vidić (calf), Ryan Giggs (fractured right arm), Anderson (unknown)
Rio Ferdinand (back)
Misses next match if booked:
Nemanja Vidić

• Both Jonny Evans and Wes Brown are ready to play in central defence, while Sir Alex was unable to confirm that Ferdinand would start.

Weekend results
12/02/10 Milan 3-2 Udinese Calcio
(Huntelaar 7 57, Pato 39; Flores 45+1, Di Natale 86)

• Huntelaar was on the scoresheet for the first time as a Milan starter. The Dutch international's previous three goals had come as a second-half substitute.

• Victory ended a run of four games without a win for the Rossoneri in all competitions.

• United were not in FA Cup action at the weekend having been knocked out by third-tier Leeds United AFC on 3 January.

• United lost two of their first three Premier League games following their Matchday 6 win at Wolfsburg but are unbeaten in eight subsequent league outings, winning six.

• Milan have emerged victorious on the four previous occasion the clubs have met over two legs in Europe, winning semi-final ties in the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1957/58, 1968/69 and 2006/07 as well as in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round in 2004/05.

• United are seeking a fourth successive quarter-final berth and travel to Milan on the back of three straight away wins in this season's competition and five in total.

Team Ties
• Beckham had a 12-year association with United, signing on as a schoolboy in 1991 and making his league debut in 1995. He went on to make 394 appearances in all competitions, scoring 86 goals, before leaving for Real Madrid CF in 2003.

• During his time at Old Trafford, Beckham collected six Premier League winners' medals and, together with Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, was part of the team that won the UEFA Champions League final in 1999.

Did you know?
• Discounting the 2008 and 2009 finals, United have not lost an away tie in the UEFA Champions League since going down to Milan in the 2006/07 semi-finals – a run of 15 matches.

Read more on the match in the official UEFA Champions League press kit.