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Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing Bayern Munich showdown

30 Mar 2010 12:11:29

Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing Bayern Munich showdown

Weeks like this are why Sir Alex Ferguson remains the manager of Manchester United. Bayern Munich, a potentially pivotal Barclays Premier League clash with Chelsea on Saturday, not to mention the second leg of what promises to be a fascinating Champions League quarter-final four days after that. He lives for the buzz that comes at the business end of every season; the rush, the steady flow of adrenaline that not only keeps Ferguson interested but also keeps him young. A good deal younger, it has to be said, than the average man close to entering his 70th year. Excited: Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing Manchester United's showdown with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena VIDEO: Fergie on Bayern test...'I always dreamed of being involved in Europe,' he said last night with the enthusiasm of a managerial rookie. 'When I first went into Europe with Aberdeen we met Real Madrid in the final. 'Then there was Bayern in the quarter-final, and one year a game against Liverpool. They gave us a right battering. But that was the start of the dream. That was what I wanted; what I wanted for the rest of my life. Enlarge 'When they then changed the format of the European Cup to the ChampionsLeague, all the big teams were there. Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, RealMadrid and Bayern. Historically all the best teams. We've got our cakeand we're eating it. Everything is there for us now.' While memories of '99 will haunt Bayern's fans - this correspondent will never forget walking through the stunned, eerily silent German masses to the post-match press conference at the Nou Camp - Ferguson spoke of how his side would be 'playing history', even if he did deliver a teasing line about that extraordinary night in the Catalan capital. 'We've never beaten them in a European tie,' he said. 'Apart from once in Barcelona.' If he was playful at times, he was less so at others. Not least when it came to his defence of Nemanja Vidic and his assessment of the Serbian's display against Bolton. The finest he had seen in some time, it would seem. While Ferguson recognises the contribution of Wayne Rooney and his fellow forwards, he says the secret of recent success has been the return of players like Vidic. FORM GUIDE Manchester United have just had four straight, convincing wins while Bayern have lost two of their past four matches. BAYERN MUNICH Mar 13.....Bayern 2-1 FreiburgMar 20.....E Frankfurt 2-1 BayernMar 24.....Schalke 0-1 BayernMar 27.....Bayern 1-2 Stuttgart MANCHESTER UNITED Mar 10......Man Utd 4-0 AC MilanMar 14..... Man Utd 3-0 FulhamMar 21..... Man Utd 2-1 LiverpoolMar 27..... Bolton 0-4 Man 'Getting the back four back together, players like Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand and Van der Sar, is why we're now playing the best football of our season,' he said. 'It's what they always say: strong at the back, strong team.' He wants them to be strong in anticipation of a meeting with Bayern's strongest team, whatever Louis van Gaal says. An old hand in these situations, the Bayern boss said his team are not 'level one' and his best player is unlikely to start - even if he does not have what the manager considers to be an injury. Chelsea's players will recognise this situation regarding Arjen Robben. A player more fragile in mind than body, they lost patience with the talented Dutch winger at Stamford Bridge because of his apparent inability to play through any pain. On the ball: Wayne Rooney prepares to return to Manchester United's first XI There was one season when John Terry would remove his boots in agony after a game to reveal a bone that was protruding through the skin on his big toe, and then wonder why his colleague had never even made it onto the bench because of something less serious. Potentially, Bayern have an exciting side. Not quite in the league of Manchester United, Barcelona, Arsenal and Inter Milan, but good enough to see off Juventus and Fiorentina and to be a very real threat to the English champions. They can have Robben on one flank, Franck Ribery on the other, as well as other quality players around them. Miroslav Klose up front, Mark van Bommel and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in midfield; not to mention Philipp Lahm at right back and Germany's No 1 goalkeeper, Hans-Jorg Butt. As Van Gaal said, they might not be the force they were but they are capable of playing 'level one' on their day. 'We do not perform with the consistency of United, but in one game we are capable of beating anybody,' he said before then reminding his audience he has only been in the job for eight months. Danger man: Franck Ribery is Bayern's big threat The question, however, is who will line up against the Premier League leaders. Robben is a doubt with a calf problem and so is Ribery because of a recent knee injury that has restricted his match fitness. Van Gaal might be trying to spring a surprise in the hope of gaining a psychological advantage, but the intelligence here suggests Bayern's wingers will not feature in the starting line-up. It is thought he will go with Thomas Muller on the right and Danijel Pranjic on the left. Less for Gary Neville and Patrice Evra to worry about. A deeply suspicious manager who once said he checks under the pasta to see if the bolognaise sauce is there before believing what an Italian might tell him, Ferguson is sceptical. 'He's a clever man,' he said of Dutchman Van Gaal. 'We've prepared to meet their best team, so if it's not their best team it will then be easier to adjust.' For Ferguson, such intrigue just adds to the excitement.  Vidic: Bayern will provide huge test but we must go for win in GermanyBayern ready to ditch man-marking tactics as they try cope with RooneyBayern to delay decision on stricken star Robben ahead of United clashVIDEO SPECIAL: Beware Ribery! This is the danger man facing Man UnitedMANCHESTER UNITED FC


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