Ferguson: United won't choke
Sir Alex Ferguson believes his Manchester United side can cope with the pressure and demands as they target winning further silverware at Old Trafford this season.
With United fighting on three fronts, Ferguson says his trophy-chasing players have been here before as he issued a rallying cry for the rest of the campaign. And the veteran Scot believes his side can raise their game as they now have a fully-fit squad at their disposal during the run-in of the season.
"It's an important time, with us being involved in three tournaments," said Ferguson, whose side take on Marseille in the UEFA Champions League mid-week. "But we are experienced enough to do what we're doing at the moment - taking each game as it comes. We have faced that situation a million times. You have to get on with it. The team needs to step up and perform though, we know that."
A major boost for the climax of the season is the return from injury of Antonio Valencia. The Ecuadorian winger's season looked over after breaking his ankle and dislocating it against Rangers in the Champions League.
But Valencia, who made his return in the FA Cup quarter-final win over Arsenal after seven months out, is back to boost the United squad for the run-in with Park Ji-Sung and Owen Hargreaves not too far behind. "With Antonio back it's a fantastic bonus for us. It's a great step forward considering he's been out for such a long time," said Ferguson. "It's a great selection poser for me to have. We missed him in the run-in last season so it's a great boost."
"Hopefully it will help us, having everyone available," the coach went on. "But we are getting players back. Ji-Sung Park is making good progress and Owen Hargreaves has started training. It doesn't matter how many players you have injured in the past, the important thing is to have them available for the run in. If we have that, then it will increase our chances."
The FA Cup is among the trophies Manchester United are bidding to win after a seven-year drought. It was back in 2004 the last time they lifted the world's oldest cup competition, and now standing in their way are crosstown rivals Manchester City.
With the blue half of Manchester desperate to fill their trophy cabinet amid the revolution at the mega-rich club, it's only an added incentive for Ferguson's side to prevail. "It's an incredible draw," said Ferguson. "You have to expect that as there's a 1/3 chance. A lot of people thought this would be a better final, but that's disrespectful to the other teams. That's taken away from us now, it's a straight forward derby semi-final and it should be a fantastic game."