Sir Alex Ferguson does not believe Barcelona's status as favourites ahead of this weekend's UEFA Champions League final offers them any advantage. Manchester United find themselves in the rare position of being underdogs for Saturday's Wembley showpiece, even though they have just claimed a record 19th title.
However, with memories of the one-sided encounter in Rome two years ago when the Catalans eased to victory, it is Barça who are expected to win. "There is no advantage," declared Ferguson. "It doesn't matter. We don't decide those things. I know my players will be ready."
Ferguson believes concentration will be the key to an improved outcome. He prefers to dwell on the two meetings with Barcelona in the 2008 semi-final, when United were able to keep a pair of clean sheets, as the template his side must work towards. "We showed fantastic concentration in those two ties," said Ferguson. "That is the key for us. It is an important issue in terms of Saturday."
We have played against Barcelona three times with Messi in the team, but there is always a solution to every good player. Hopefully we can find one on Saturday.
Ferguson, whilst recognising Lionel Messi's brilliance, is refusing to single out the Argentina star for special attention. "We have played against Barcelona three times with Messi in the team," he said.
"But there is always a solution to every good player. Hopefully we can find one on Saturday. They have other good players though, and so do we. That is why it is such an appealing game. I am sure Barcelona are aware of that."
Ferguson was asked about the importance of Ryan Giggs to his team. However, it was immediately obvious the United boss was not interested in discussing the Welshman, who was named in the House of Commons yesterday as the person at the centre of a privacy case. "All the players are important to us," he said.
Asked about his relationship with the Glazer family, Ferguson replied: "There has never been any problem for me. They let me get on with my job as the manager and that is all you can ask for."
United's meeting with Barcelona will be the third Champions League final they have featured in since the Glazers took control of the club.