HAVING preached the importance of not conceding in the first leg, Alex Ferguson feels the key to Manchester United progressing past Arsenal to the Champions League final will be scoring at the Emirates, while the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is bullish in his belief that his team will be able to produce a much-improved performance next week.
Despite admitting a level of frustration at only holding a one-goal advantage, Ferguson, who could be without Rio Ferdinand next week after the England defender went to hospital for X-rays on a rib problem, declared himself satisfied with the outcome.
He said: “We had good chances and their goalkeeper made two or three fantastic saves. The most pleasing aspect is that I said beforehand that I want to win the game without losing a goal. We’ve done that and the performance level was very good so we’ve achieved that and given ourselves a good chance.
“The tie’s not over and it will be difficult down at their ground but we have players that can score goals.”
Ferguson feels his team are at a disadvantage as they have to win at Middlesbrough on Saturday to maintain control of the race for the Premier League, while Arsenal have the luxury of being able to rest players in their game against Portsmouth and he claimed O’Shea has done enough to play in the final if United get there.
The United manager added: “That’s Arsenal’s big advantage now. They could play Pat Rice at right-back and Arsene at centre-forward because it doesn’t matter. John is a great professional of our time. He never complains and he’s happy to play anywhere. If I was asked if we got to the final would he be in the team, I’d say yes.”
Meanwhile, Wenger was happy to be leaving Old Trafford trailing by a single goal but claimed his Arsenal side will be a completely different proposition on Tuesday night.
“At home, I am convinced you will see a different Arsenal team and we still have a very good chance to reverse the result,” he said. “Football is like that and you can play tomorrow again and it will be a different game. We have the quality to do it and we believe that at home we can do that.
“They could be deflated. I believe the tie is very open. They can have regrets because they didn’t score a second and it’s down to us to make them regret that they didn’t score a second.
“It would be our biggest win over United because there’s a final at stake.”
For O’Shea, the goal could not have come at a better time as he celebrates his 28th birthday today, but the Republic of Ireland international acknowledged that United should be travelling to the Emirates on Tuesday with more than a one-goal lead.
“I dedicate the goal to my dad because he’s been having a rough time of late and hopefully that will cheer him up,” he said.
“It’s a birthday present for me but Perhaps we could have scored more with the chances we had.”
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