Fergie puts final thoughts aside

Given their overall status within the game, either Barcelona or
Real Madrid would be a fitting opponent for the Red Devils in the
final at Wembley if they can get past Schalke. However, having
suffered shock defeats to German sides at exactly the same stage of
the competition twice before, Ferguson has no wish to complete a
hat-trick. So, whilst interested observers can allow their minds to
wander forward towards a dream final, United’s focus will remain
short-term. “I don’t like jumping ahead,” said Ferguson. “We have
to deal with Schalke first. If we can manage that, I don’t care who
we play in the final.” Ferguson has good reason to adopt such a
stance. Those two semi-final defeats, to Borussia Dortmund in 1997
and Bayer Leverkusen five years later, are part of an unhappy list
of seven losses at the last-four stage. Only four times have United
gone on to make the final and though they emerged victorious on
three of those showpiece occasions, Ferguson does not think it is
enough. “This is where we should be,” he said. “The expectation has
always been high with regard to the European scene and you do get
envious of other clubs’ great record in Europe. “We are trying to
gain parity with that. You look at Real Madrid (nine wins, three
times runners-up), AC Milan (7-4), Bayern Munich (4-4), Ajax (4-2)
and Liverpool (5-2). “We really need to progress quickly to get to
that level and the present group have enough experience in Europe
now.” It leaves Ferguson with an unusual nervousness, which in
itself emphasises how important this competition is to him. “You
always get apprehensive at this stage of the competition,” he said.
“Semi-finals are never easy. “We had the same situation in 1999
when we played our semi-final against Juventus. “There was an
apprehension in our first game at home that we released in the
second leg. “When we played Barcelona in the first leg (three years
ago) we got the result we wanted. But the last 20 minutes of the
second leg were absolute agony.”