Fergie backing best of British for glory

December 7, 2006

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes a British club can win the Champions League this season.

GettyImagesRyan Giggs heads home his vital goal.

The Red Devils joined Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Celtic in the knockout stages after a 3-1 victory over Benfica at Old Trafford in their final group match.

Every English team topped their pool and Ferguson believes any one of Britain's representatives can go on to be champions of Europe.

'It is fantastic for British football,' said Ferguson.

'I think one of the British teams can win and I just hope it is us.

'I think the team is confident of their ability now. They know they can win games and can play and there were a lot of moments last night when I think we played some fantastic stuff.'

United went into last night's match needing a draw to progress but things looked grim when Benfica right-back Nelson's hammered in a 25-yard shot in the 27th minute.

Crucially Nemanja Vidic nodded in Ryan Giggs' left-wing free-kick in first-half injury time.

Further headers from Giggs and Louis Saha ensured, with Celtic losing, the Red Devils topped Group F.

That brings its own problems, with some real European heavyweights like Real Madrid and Barcelona among the teams to finish second in their groups and so both potential opponents for United.

But with his side's participation in the knockout phase in doubt until midway through the second half last night, Ferguson was just pleased to be in the next round.

'If you were in the situation we were in you are happy to be there first of all,' he admitted.

'When we look at the possible teams we could face then there are some very good opposition there. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Roma all have great history.

'I don't know if it is an advantage for the second game to be at Old Trafford. Some people see that as an advantage but I'm not so sure that is always the case.

'But if we had been in second place we could have faced Lyon, who I think are one of the favourites, Milan, Valencia so I don't know which is worse to be honest with you.'

Benfica coach Fernando Santos admitted conceding the goal to Vidic cost them dearly

'The goal they scored at the end of the first half caused us a lot of problems,' he said.

'We started well and although we had difficulty in possession from defence to attack we were controlling the game.

'Then United had four or five minutes of possession (at the end of the first half) and the goal changed the game.

'In the second half United were too strong for us.'

Meanwhile, United winger Cristiano Ronaldo took the opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to the club after another week of controversy.

'I`m very happy at Old Trafford,' he insisted 'Things are running well.

'We are at the top of table, we are winning games. But in football you never know what is going to happen next'

And he claimed recent allegations of diving made by Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate had only motivated him ahead of the game.

He added: 'I`m already used to it. The more they criticise me the better I play. Those critics do not affect me any longer'