Fergie convinced United stars Hungary for revenge

MANCHESTER UNITED boss Alex Ferguson has challenged his team to reach the heights of Friday night and blow away the threat tonight to their Champions League place.

By Simon Stone

MANCHESTER UNITED boss Alex Ferguson has challenged his team to reach the heights of Friday night and blow away the threat tonight to their Champions League place.

Ferguson was hugely encouraged by United's second-half show against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when they outplayed the Londoners and were unfortunate not to come away with a win.

The Scot is convinced a repeat performance will be enough to extinguish the threat of Zalaegerszeg, even though the Hungarian minnows arrive at Old Trafford holding a precious 1-0 advantage from the first leg.

A last-gasp Bela Koplarovics strike sent United spinning to one of the most embarrassing defeats in their European history two weeks ago, Ferguson's men having failed to capitalise on almost complete second-half dominance.

It looked like being a similar story in their league opener against West Brom until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bagged the winner 11 minutes from time.

But it was the Chelsea game when United really hit top form, twice coming from behind and producing the type of thrilling football which has earned them seven Premiership titles.

"If we get anywhere near what we produced on Friday night we will win easily," said Ferguson. "Against a good Chelsea side we reached a really high level. It was an impressive performance and showed what we are capable of. If we play to our potential tomorrow we will be okay."

It means Juan Sebastian Veron may have to be content with a spot on the subs bench, as might Solskjaer given Ferguson's preference for Ryan Giggs to move into a more attacking role.

The only significant change could be the introduction of Rio Ferdinand for his debut.

Ferdinand trained yesterday and is close to returning from the ankle injury he picked up against Boca Juniors on August 10.

Ferguson though hinted he will adopt a cautious approach with the world's most expensive defender.

"He has a chance and there is an attraction about playing him, no question," he said. "But it might be better to settle for Saturday."

The spectre of defeat is enough to give the United money men sleepless nights.

An exit at this stage of the competition is likely to cost a minimum of £15million, and probably much more given their appearances in quarter and semi-finals over the last few years.

But Ferguson is not interested in the finances. After the romance of a potential return to Glasgow last year, he knows this season's final would offer home advantage if his team made their way through.

To take the first steps to achieving that, they will have to overcome a team he does not expect to do anything other than hang on for dear life.

"They fought like tigers and I don't think they will do anything different this time," he said. "It wouldn't be a bad idea if they came over here to play but somehow I doubt they will.

"We have to make sure our football is quick. The away goal is always a worry but the major threat is our own lack of concentration, although after the blow we suffered over there our minds should be fully focussed."

Having played a central role in United's march to European glory three years ago, Giggs has no desire to find himself pitched into the relative anonymity of the UEFA Cup.

Giggs feels the club will prove the Hungarian horror was a one-off.

"The pitch was bumpy, which suited them more than us," he said. "It was a blow to concede a late goal and it left an empty feeling in your stomach at the end. But once the game finished we immediately set our sights on the second leg. The Champions League is the biggest stage. You are playing against the best teams.

"We couldn't get our passing going two weeks ago because the pitch was so bumpy. But hopefully that will change tomorrow and we can prove that defeat was a one-off."

Meanwhile, the value of their team may only equal two months of David Beckham's salary but that will not stop Hungarian unknowns Zalaegerszegi attempt to cause one of the biggest shocks in European football history.

Manager Peter Bozsik said: "When I was a child I used to play table football and one of the teams was always Manchester United,'' said Bozsik.

Alex Ferguson has suggested that ZTE will do no more than scrap to defend their lead in what is only the fourth European outing in the club's history.

Bozsik insists his team will not intentionally sit on their advantage he just fears they might be forced to.

"For the last two weeks we have not been able to walk the streets because of the number of people coming up to congratulate us. It feels sensational. I just hope after the game I'm not feeling very sad."

Koplarovics' momentous strike has still not been enough to earn him a place in the visitors' starting line-up.

Instead, Bozsik will rely largely on the players who held United with some degree of comfort.

But on the same evening United met Chelsea, ZTE's preparations were hampered by a 3-0 defeat to MTK.

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