• Champions League

Ferguson: United have learnt from mistakes

ESPN staff
November 7, 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United's failure to progress past the group stage of the 2011/12 Champions League has been a driving force for them this season.

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United finished third in their group last season, relegating them to the Europa League less than a year after reaching the final of Europe's elite competition.

But Ferguson has said that those shortcomings and the high standard of Spanish and German opposition has only spurred him to take the Champions League more seriously.

"I think it's a difficult tournament to win at any time," Ferguson said. "There has been a marked difference between this year and last year. We misread it last year. The previous group stages we were doing it quite easily but last year we certainly didn't.

"This year I've made sure we're playing a stronger team and hopefully we'll get to the next stage and that's what matters. We might win on Wednesday, we might lose or draw, but the important thing is that nine points gives us a great chance.

"I made a point about how strong the Champions League is and therefore we'll need to perform at a really high level to do that. You can't look past Real Madrid and Barcelona, that's fair to say, and I do think Dortmund will be about the Champions League this year. Those three teams have outstanding chances and I hope we can join them because we have a good squad of players."

Despite his European ambition, Ferguson is set to rest a number of key players for the Braga match, insisting the younger players can step up and move his side one step closer to qualifying from Group H.

Chris Smalling is expected to make his return from injury, with out of favour winger Nani also taking his place in the Manchester United line-up.

Jose Peseiro, Braga manager and Nani's former boss at Sporting Lisbon, claims Ferguson has not properly nurtured the 25-year-old.

"All players have different personalities," Peseiro said. "Some need an embrace and support, others don't need any support. Sure, the English players don't need too much support, but the Portuguese, Brazilian and Spanish players need more emotional contact.

"When Nani arrived at Manchester United he needed to forget this situation because he needed to play to the maximum and to fight for his place against others. Sir Alex Ferguson can't speak differently to him than to the others. But I know some players need more. Nani needs more I think.

"I don't know if the coach has less confidence in him, or if he just doesn't feel right at this moment. I would like Nani to play tonight and play well - but not too well or to score in our goal."

Braga player to watch: The last four English teams to play at the AXA Stadium, better known as the Quarry, have left goalless and beaten. Alan may have bagged Braga's goals at Old Trafford, but Eder has been a revelation for the Portuguese side this season, and has six goals in six games coming into the tie.

Manchester United player to watch: With 10 goals already for his new club, Robin van Persie has quickly settled in to life at United and is thrilled with the partnership he has quickly struck up with Wayne Rooney. United can all but book their spot in the knockout stages with victory tonight, so expect an attack-minded approach spearheaded by the Dutchman.

Betting: United are unbeaten in Portugal since a 2-1 reverse at Benfica in 2005, but do not expect Braga to make it easy for them. A win by the odd goal in three is 8/1 with bet365.

Prediction : 1-2

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