Ferguson wary of Barca threat

Sir Alex Ferguson expects a more forceful Champions League

challenge from Italy – but he still believes Barcelona hold the

biggest threat.

Serie A suffered a last-16 wipeout last term, with Inter

Milan, Roma and Juventus all eliminated at the hands of English

opposition in Europe’s number one competition.

There are plenty who fear a similarly dismal campaign this

time around given AC Milan must face United before city rivals

Inter tackle Chelsea.

Both ties have added glamour given David Beckham and Jose

Mourinho must tackle their former clubs.

However, the bookmakers are in no doubt the Premier League

pair will emerge victorious.

Ferguson does not expect it to be quite so easy. He views

Milan’s vast experience as an element to be respected, while, after

watching the recent derby, he sees Inter being a far stronger force

than they were last term.

“I watched the Milan derby and Inter played fantastic,” said

Ferguson. “They were very good on that night and there has been a

big improvement with them, illustrated by their position in the

league.”

AC Milan have experience of big games too and we have to be

cautious how we approach this game, so I would say there is an

improvement in the Italian sides.”

It is difficult to see a repeat of 2003, when Italy provided

both finalists – AC Milan and Juventus – at Old Trafford. More

likely is 2008, when United met Chelsea in Moscow, or 2000, when

Real Madrid met Valencia in an all-Spanish affair.

“Milan had their dominance with people like (Paolo) Maldini

and (Franco) Baresi, then, at the start of the decade, Valencia,

Real and Barca were all in the semis.

“In recent years English teams have done well and got to a

lot of semi-finals and finals.

“But you have to go with Barcelona. They have the experience

of winning it last year and they are top of their own league too.

“You cannot write off a team with all that quality.”