Apr 25, 2011

Ferguson ready to end German hoodoo

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Sir Alex Ferguson insists Manchester United are ready to end their run of Champions League exits at the hands of German clubs, as the Premier League leaders prepare to face Schalke in this season's semi-final first leg on Tuesday.

Ferguson's side have suffered knockout defeats against Bayern Munich (twice), Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen in recent memory - with the latter two both ending United's Champions League dream at the semi-final stage, in 1997 and 2002 respectively.

Most recently, Bayern knocked United out of last season's competition en route to the final, triumphing on away goals after winning 2-1 in Munich and losing 3-2 at Old Trafford.

United do, of course, also have fond memories of facing German opposition having beaten Bayern in dramatic circumstances in the 1999 final, while they also defeated Wolfsburg home and away last season.

And Ferguson believes United are fully equipped to exorcise their German knockout demons when they line up against Ralf Ragnick's Schalke at Veltins Arena on Tuesday.

"We've not had a great record against Bayern from the 99 season. We drew twice in the group stages and beat them in the final," Ferguson said.

"We were very unlucky against Leverkusen, we should have seen them off and we were very unlucky against Dortmund but you can't always be unlucky and sometimes it'll change for you. The German teams have always had that resilience and determination about them and that will be exactly the same on Tuesday night.

"We're going into this game with far more experience than we have in previous years and our record away from home in the last few years has been terrific."

Schalke's line will be led by three-time European Cup winner Raul, who recently revealed that United were interested in his services when his time at Real Madrid was drawing to a close last summer.

And Ferguson confirmed that he had considered signing the veteran Spain striker, who is the Champions Laague's all-time leading scorer in the Champions League with 71 goals.

"We spoke to his agent or his agent spoke to us and we were a little bit tempted because you said to yourself 'He's not too old that he can't score a goal in the Premier League," Ferguson said.

"His time at Real had come to an end after a fantastic career but players like that always find something in terms of ambition, they don't just wither away, and at his age he had plenty to do, plenty to offer.

"It would have been [a Henrik Larsson-type signing]. You get opportunities with experience like that like we did with Michael Owen and Michael Owen has been a fantastic professional here. They bring value to the team, bring experience and I think if I didn't have Michael Owen I might have been tempted.

"Raul is Raul and you've got to be careful in the last third of the field because he's still got the intelligence and a fantastic goal record. It's 71 in the Champions League? Bloody hell, I hope it stays that way for the next three weeks."



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