But it is Pep Guardiola's side who Ferguson has identified as the competition's form team after their destruction of French champions Lyon in the last 16. The Scot told Inside United magazine: "Everyone's taking notice of them. Their first-half performance in the second leg against Lyon was absolutely brilliant. They were four up in no time. They can be a threat to anybody.
Related ArticlesUnited's schedule brings tough choicesCapello backs Barcelona to rule in RomeRonaldo's Real mistakeCristiano Ronaldo fears Bayern Munich over Liverpool in Champions League drawLionel Messi carries Barcelonas burdenPapers: Frank Lampard: Young players should scrub my boots"The English teams have proven the strength of the Premier League in recent years but we have to recognise that our threats don't just come from England. The big one will come from Barcelona."
Guardiola's side have caught the eye and imagination with the free-flowing, attacking football which has brought them countless scoring records on their relentless march to the Spanish title. Such verve, though, has served only to whet Premier League appetites for a summer which is likely to boast several attempts to lure Barcelona's stars to England.
Manchester City are likely to be at the forefront, with sources at the Eastlands club suggesting Mark Hughes is set to revisit his January move for Yaya Toure, the midfield anchorman and brother of Arsenal defender Kolo, who also remains on their radar. Yaya turned down their advances earlier this year to complete the season at the Nou Camp but City are confident they will still land their man.
Striker Samuel Eto'o is thought to be a possibility for City, with Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez also believed to be tracking his availability.
Eto'o's contract expires at the end of next season and reports in Spain suggest Benitez may be prepared to wait until 2010 to land one of the finest strikers in the world on a free transfer. His opposite number, Guardiola, though, may be willing to cash in on Eto'o – who he tried to sell last summer – in order to generate funds to help with his rebuilding of the Catalan giants.
The traffic, of course, may not all be one way. Guardiola is a long-term admirer of Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona are believed to be gearing up for another attempt to bring their prodigal son home.
After two months out with a groin injury Manchester United defender Gary Neville is nearing a return to first team action after coming through an hour of Monday night's reserve team draw with Newcastle at St James' Park.