OPORTO, April 14 – Cristiano Ronaldo expects Manchester United to keep their bid to retain the Champions League alive with an historic victory in Wednesday's quarter-final second-leg match against Porto.
After last week’s 2-2 first leg draw at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson’s holders need a win or a high-scoring draw in Portugal to progress to the semi-finals.
While United would go through with a 3-3 draw thanks to the away goals rule, in reality the Premier League club are likely to need a win at the Dragao Stadium.
It would be a daunting prospect even without the knowledge that no English team has ever beaten Porto on home soil in 12 attempts. Arsenal were defeated 2-0 there this season, while United have failed to win in Porto three times, with two of those matches during Ferguson’s reign.
But United have specialised in making history down the years, so it is no surprise to hear Portugal winger
Ronaldo, never a player short on self-belief, talking up his team’s chances of achieving another momentous first.
"We will win because Manchester United are the better team. I feel good and I’m ready," Ronaldo said.
"I think we have a better team than Porto but we have to respect them. I want to finish the season by winning the Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League. My team-mates are thinking like me."
United were expected to cruise past Porto, but the shaky defending that has scarred recent performances cost them dearly in the first leg.
Mariano Gonzalez’s last minute strike was just reward for an enterprising display from Jesualdo Ferreira’s side, which exposed United’s soft centre.
Despite the odds being stacked against the three-time European kings, United midfielder Michael Carrick agrees with Ronaldo that victory at the Dragao is well within their capabilities.
"We have the players to do it and we are set up as a team to do it," Carrick said. "If we play well we can exploit the best of teams and as long as we play to our potential I am sure we will cause them problems."
Ferguson is desperate to have England defender Rio Ferdinand back from a groin injury as United’s previously impregnable defence shows increasing signs of vulnerability.
"No British team has won there, so it is going to be difficult," Ferguson said. "But we are used to being first and we need to be first again because we have to win."
Confident talk of five trophies being brought back to the Theatre of Dreams only a month ago was dampened by defeats to Liverpool and Fulham in the league, but United’s 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday maintained their one point lead at the top of the Premier League and the cleansweep remains a possibility.
Things would be a lot worse were it not for Italian striker Federico Macheda, who has come on as substitute in the last two league games to rescue four vital points and the teenager should be involved in Portugal.
Porto, two-times champions of Europe, are hoping their considerable Argentinian contingent will help them repeat the feats of Jose Mourinho’s 2004 team, who defeated United on their way to winning the Champions League.
The league leaders impressed with their vibrant attacking display in Manchester last week, and held out comfortably in the last round after securing a similar 2-2 scoreline in their first-leg away match with Atletico Madrid.
United, who have not tasted defeat in the Champions League for almost two years, will draw comfort from Porto’s own defensive problems, which have led Ferreira’s team to concede more goals than any team left in the tournament.
A Portuguese victory over their English opponents would set up a semi-final revenge tie with 2006 finalists Arsenal, who thumped them 4-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the group stages, or Villarreal.