| Zidane does the fancy tricks but Raul (picture above) is the one who does the damage, says the Manchester United manager ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Real Madrid
London: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is telling his players to have the courage to tackle Real Madrid man-to-man in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter final, second leg at Old Trafford.
United, who were at times mesmerised by Real in their 3-1 first-leg defeat at the Bernabeu, can ill-afford to stand off the holders when the two sides meet again.
Ferguson singled out the main threat as Spanish striker Raul, who scored in the away leg on April 8 and who the Scot wants to be marked more closely this time around.
“The confidence I take from the first game is that they’ll be aware we can score goals against them. There’s an obvious goal threat from us,” Ferguson was quoted as saying in the British Sunday newspapers.
“The key is whether we can stop them scoring. We’re not kidding ourselves — they’re a very talented team. But if we play with courage and are more positive in playing against Raul, we’ve got a good chance.
“Zinedine Zidane does all these fancy tricks without ever hurting you... but Raul is the one who does the damage.
“We need to push on top of him more. That’s not easy to do, and you need courage to do it, because it’s always difficult for defenders to go into midfield.
“But we’ve got pace at the back and that’s important. I don’t see why we can’t do it.”
Ferguson knows that taking on Raul and his Brazilian strike partner Ronaldo, at the risk of being beaten by their ball skills, is not for the faint-hearted.
But he insisted: “We’ve got to be brave enough to play them one versus one. It’s straightforward. If we can do that, we’ve got a better chance.”
Ferguson knows that only the very best from his side, who won the Champions League in 1999, will be enough to deliver the 2-0 victory that would see them through to the semi-finals.
“Nobody’s disputing how good Real are and, if we’re going to pull this one off, we’re going to have to perform our best ever,” Ferguson was quoted as saying.
“It’s a hell of a task, but we’re capable of it... My hope is to go 1-0 up by halftime because, if we can do that, the whole complexion of the game changes.”
Real director confident
Meanwhile, in Madrid, Real Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano is convinced the European champions can wrap up Manchester United despite the recent loss of domestic form.
Real were dealt a comprehensive 4-2 defeat by Real Sociedad last week and were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw against struggling Barcelona in Saturday’s derby at the Bernabeu.
“There are days when the players are less inspired,” Valdano said after the match against Barca. “They are not able to shine and make mistakes and that is something that happened today.”
The Real sporting director said the team were now turning their attentions to next week’s game against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Having outclassed the English side in the first match at the Bernabeu, Valdano said he was confident his team could wrap up the second leg match with a win.
“It will be a very difficult game because we will be facing the best attacking team in Europe, but if we forget the first leg result we will go through. I trust in the quality of our players.”
Ferguson, meanwhile, has hit back at rumours that David Beckham and Ryan Giggs could be on their way out of Old Trafford at the end of the season.
Recent speculation on two of United’s most prized possessions has suggested they could be on their way to Europe — with Beckham going to Real Madrid and Giggs going to Inter Milan.
Real Madrid forward Raul even suggested on Saturday that Beckham would be accommodated at the star-studded Spanish top flight club.
Raul told The Observer: “Seeing the teammates that have arrived recently, it is possible he (Beckham) could come as well. If he comes, the coach will find a place for him.”
However, no-nonsense Ferguson, who accused Real of “playing games” ahead of their Champions League quarter final second leg encounter on Wednesday, insists that both his star forwards will still be wearing United shirts next season.
“I think I addressed that (Beckham rumours) very well when I said it only came out when the draw was made for the quarter finals,” said Ferguson.
“Probably after the game on Wednesday, it will vanish. There has certainly been no approach from Real Madrid.”
Ferguson also rejected speculation that Giggs was attracting interest from one of Serie A’s biggest clubs, saying that Inter Milan simply cannot afford the Welsh winger.
He added: “There was speculation last summer too and it was the same club, Inter Milan. This is the club which says it has no money. Do they think they are going to get a player for nothing for a start'” (agencies)