Sir Alex Ferguson has warned of the potential pitfalls in Wednesday’s Champions League clash with AS Roma, and says United will only make the semi finals with a performance that matches the effort and professionalism of the 2-0 win in Rome a week ago.
United suffered a minor slip in the Premier League in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough. But Sir Alex will demand the Reds resume the kind of imperious form that has cleared the way for a shot at a league and European Cup double.
“We made two mistakes against Middlesbrough on Sunday,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Uncharacteristic mistakes, I must say. But they cost us two goals.
"We need to make sure we don’t do anything silly. There are 90 minutes to get through, and the clock ticking. The clock is against Roma. They have to do something, and that may suit us.”
That may indicate a patient approach from United, but Sir Alex won’t allow his team to rely solely on two away goals from the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico.
“We have leeway, but we never take anything for granted and we’re not going to start now,” he added. “Therefore, we’re looking upon this game as the most important game of the season for us.
“We’ve got one foot in the semi final, and to get through we have to approach the game in the right fashion and go and win it. The result in Rome is not a pass into the semi final. We achieved that because we worked our socks off, the team discipline was excellent and tactically we were good. That’s the kind of performance we need on Wednesday, because it’s not an absolute certainty that we'll go through.”
Sir Alex doesn't expect Roma to spring any surprises in terms of team tactics, but knows the Giallorossi are capable of an upset even if their attack has again been blunted by absence of injured club skipper Francesco Totti.
“This is the sixth time we have played Roma in a year, and knowing Luciano Spalletti I think they will play their normal game,” he said. “I don’t think they will change anything in their approach to the match.
“We’re aware of the dangers in their team and how we can counter those dangers. We’re at home so we have to express ourselves in our own way.
“If we can get the first goal, it would take pressure off us. Knowing my team, that is what we will try to do. We will attack the best that we can and try to make sure we play our normal game. I think both teams will have their moments, but hopefully ours are enough to take us into the semi finals."