Ferguson wary of Barca 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.”