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Manchester United, Real Madrid in blockbuster match

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Sir Alex Ferguson has labelled Manchester United’s meeting with Real Madrid tonight as “one of the biggest” in football and does not expect anyone to be disappointed. The match kicks-off at 9:45pm.

United welcome Real to Old Trafford in the second leg of the Uefa Champions League last 16, with the tie tantalisingly poised after a 1-1 draw in the Santiago Bernabeu three weeks ago.

Ferguson is relishing the visit of the Spanish champions and is confident that the fixture will live up to the pre-match hype.

“I think there will be goals,” said the United manager. “I think both teams will score, but we have to think we can score more than them. There has been a massive build-up. You can see from the number of photographers at the training ground today – that is an indication of how important a game it is for both clubs.

“It’s an occasion you always want to have and that’s the beauty of the Champions League, you have the opportunity each year to play against one of the big teams from Europe. It is one of the biggest.

“I think both teams are in form. Real had two fantastic performances against Barcelona and found form at the right time for a game of this nature. Our form been consistent for quite a while which we need on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it gets any bigger than this for a European night. It’s set up to be a potentially marvellous game – I don’t think we’ll be disappointed.”

United midfielder Michael Carrick is also expecting a memorable evening, saying: “These are the nights you live for. It is extra special. There is just something in the air. Everyone comes to the stadium with a spring in their step.

“Every supporter is that little bit more vocal. They appreciate how important it is and what it means to get through.

“The prestige and history of the club suggests we should be challenging in the later stages of these tournaments. It is up to us to go out there and do it.”

Both teams created chances in the first game in Madrid and Carrick has called for the ‘complete game’ from United in order to progress to the quarter-finals.

“We can’t (be too gung-ho),” said Carrick. “I don’t think we will and I don’t think they will; it’s hard to know, isn’t it?

“The game over there was tight at times, but we could have come away with a 3-1 win and so could they. So it’s about taking our chances.

“With the strike power we’ve got and the strike power they’ve got, both teams will have to defend well. You have to have the complete game in many respects.”

Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo can expect a rousing Old Trafford welcome tonight before his former Manchester United teammates use a new-found defensive solidity to try to make those the last Champions League soccer cheers he hears this season. The last-16 tie between the two European giants is balanced on a knife edge after last month’s 1-1 draw in the first leg and with United holding the tiniest of advantages in the shape of an away goal this week’s glamour match could be a tight affair.

United go into the game looking a lot more secure at the back than earlier this season with four successive league clean sheets coming at just the right time before being faced with the all-too-familiar talents of fan favourite Ronaldo.

“Early on in the season we were conceding too many goals,” United striker Wayne Rooney, who forged a lethal partnership with Ronaldo before the Portuguese left northwest England in 2009, told MUTV.

“We seemed to have coped with that, we’re not conceding and we’re scoring goals so we’re in a great position at the minute. So, hopefully we can continue for Tuesday.”

United warmed up with a 4-0 victory over Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday to go 15 points clear at the top of the table.

The trouble for them is that Real are enjoying their own good run after two morale-boosting results against arch-rivals Barcelona last week, a 3-1 win in the King’s Cup and 2-1 victory in La Liga.

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