Manchester United's schedule could lead to weaker side to face Aston Villa

21 March 2009 08:59
Martin O'Neill's side visit Old Trafford on Sunday April 5 for a 4pm game on Sky before FC Porto arrive for the first leg of the Champions League quarter final, to be played on Tuesday night.

United have not exercised their option to bring the domestic game forward to 12.45pm on Saturday to allow extra rest before the European clash, meaning Ferguson may have to juggle his resources in a bid to keep his big hitters fresh for the Porto game.

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While such a move could have serious ramifications for the Premier League title race, that concern aside, Ferguson and his captain Rio Ferdinand both acknowledge United have been handed a favourable draw, though they admit there is no room for any complacency.

The Portuguese champions are a very different side to the one which, under Jose Mourinho's tutelage, dispatched United in the last 16 en route to lifting the trophy in 2004, and were comprehensively beaten 4-0 in the group stage by Arsenal – who United could face in the semi-final - and had been identified by Ferguson before the draw as one of the easier options.

He said: 'It's a good draw for us. You sometimes wonder if being at home first is a good or a bad thing but I think in this modern-day competition there's no indication of what is better. The only thing you hope is that you don't lose a goal in the home tie.

'We've met Porto before and obviously we respect any Portuguese team. We've had a huge Portuguese influence in the club, firstly with Carlos Queiroz but now with Cristiano and Nani. We understand Portuguese football.'

Ferdinand, too, preaches caution, but admits facing Porto at Old Trafford on April 7 before travelling to Portugal eight days later is a far more appealing prospect than the internecine warfare of an all-English tie.

He said: 'I'm pleased to have avoided the English teams. Emotionally and physically it would have been draining, more than against a European team, because there's so much that goes along with playing English sides in this tournament.'


Source: Telegraph