Didier Deschamps is banking on the feverish backing of the Stade Vélodrome crowd to give Marseille a valuable edge in the first leg of their tie against Manchester United, a club the coach describes as “an example to follow”. The visitors have a number of injury problems for the trip to France but Sir Alex Ferguson is confident in their ability to cope as his team begin a testing run.
Didier Deschamps, Marseille coach
United are a club with a lot of history; they’ve won lots of trophies and their symbol is their manager. They have a winning culture; their message is always the same, no matter who is playing. United are an example to follow and we’ll have to produce a great performance to win. It’s going to be very difficult and United qualifying would be logical. But it’s two games and eliminating them would be a great performance. Going to Old Trafford will be tough as United are always harder to play at home, so we’ll try for the best possible result [here] and then we’ll see over there.
The winning culture is their motto, it’s encoded in their DNA. They’ll be missing players but when we see Nani, [Wayne] Rooney and [Dimitar] Berbatov, we know they can make the difference. United win a lot of matches and don’t concede many goals. They have less fantasy than a few years ago, but they’re still a top team. We will try not to concede and to score of course. We’ll need to be strong at the back, 0-0 would not be a bad result, and defending well will be crucial. It’s a privilege to play such games; I know the atmosphere at the Vélodrome will be boiling.
Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
We’re involved in three competitions and want to do well in all of them. The real competition starts tomorrow with away goals coming into play. Our midfield will be without the injured Anderson and [Ryan] Giggs but we have a lot of good players to replace them and I’m not worried. For the last few years English teams have been very powerful and it’s happening again this year. The standard of the Premier League has risen a lot in the last seven or eight years. We can’t talk about domination but the English clubs have good chances this year, especially with the final being played at Wembley. The Champions League this year is very open.
Marseille are a very powerful team, athletic, with strong defenders. [Mathieu] Valbuena is back training and could be playing. We know it’s a fantastic atmosphere here and that will help Marseille. We have a couple of important weeks coming up with four away games in a row against [Wigan], Chelsea and Liverpool, plus the Champions League. The players are enjoying it, it’s an interesting challenge. I don’t make us favourites. Marseille have an opportunity; it’s a challenge for them too.
André Ayew misses his next European game if he is booked. Valbuena is back in the squad although Deschamps said: “It’s a little premature to have him starting.” Loïc Rémy and Brandão are nursing ankle injuries while Marseille doctors say André-Pierre Gignac needs “a miracle” to recover in time to face United due to a groin problem. Hilton, who has not played since 2 October because of a similar injury, is available again.
Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Park Ji-Sung and long-term absentee Antonio Valencia have not travelled to France. New goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is on his first European trip with United, although Edwin van der Sar is expected to start.
United have been great away from home in the Champions League winning nine out of their last 10 away matches in Europe. Just as impressively, United had the best defensive record in the group stages, conceding only one goal.
They are playing a Marseille side that have injury problems in attack, which is why United are favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
That being said, Marseille is not an easy place to go and win as Chelsea found out earlier this season and I expect them to put United under pressure on Wednesday. But look for Rooney to get United that valuable away goal that they are looking for.
Score: Marseille 1 Man United 1