Manchester United have never beaten AC Milan in the knockout stages of the European Cup, yet Sir Alex Ferguson is in an unusually confident mood ahead of their Champions League second round tie at the San Siro tomorrow. The English club were defeated over two legs in each of their four encounters in the competition - in 1958, 1969, 2005 and 2007. But, the United manager thinks Milan are a different proposition since the departure of Kaka.
The Brazilian moved to Real Madrid last summer, joining Cristiano Ronaldo, the former United forward, at the Bernabeu. United lost 3-0 in their last contest with the Rossoneri at the San Siro as Kaka inspired the hosts to a semi-final win in 2007 and Ferguson is happy not to be facing the Brazil playmaker. "It's a good time for us to be going to Milan," said Ferguson "They played this weekend [beating Udinese 3-2 on Friday night], they've lost Kaka and have a few injuries, whereas we did not play this weekend and we have had a good rest."
Leonardo's side have been forced to adapt tactically after Kaka's move to Spain, according to Ferguson. He said: "They have changed since they lost Kaka. "They used Kaka at the head of a diamond and two front players but they have changed that and gone 4-3-3 with two wide players and three central midfield players. "You have to recognise they are not short of skill and experience. Ronaldinho, Pato all these players, but equally we have players who can win the match too. After the experience in the San Siro three years ago, where they dominated the game, I know that won't happen again."
Pato is outlined by Ferguson as the biggest threat to United in the first-leg contest, which may see David Beckham face his old club. "It's Pato they are desperate to get back in," said Ferguson. "If he's not back they'll play David wide right. We know all about David, he's a great crosser of the ball so we will have to be alive to that." Ferguson, whose side have won four of their last five games, scoring 16 goals, is confident United can cope with the absence of Ryan Giggs, who suffered a broken arm against Aston Villa last Wednesday.
"My players are used to big occasions and I think the good thing for us now is that we have hit form at just the right time," added the United manager. * With agencies