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English Premiership

Man United chase history

ROME, May 27 – Sir Alex Ferguson on Tuesday backed his side to make Champions League history at Rome's Olympic Stadium against Barcelona in Wednesday's final as his team bid to become the first to defend the title.

ALEX FERGUSONNot since the Champions League began in 1992 – changing its name from the European Cup – has any team won back-to-back finals and Sir Alex says his side are more than capable of winning a second successive title.

"We have never done it and it has never been done, but we are good at doing things for the first time and this is an opportunity for us," said the 67-year-old United coach.

"It is unusual that no one has done it since the Champions League started.

"If you look back at teams in the 60s and 70s, sides like Ajax, AC Milan and Bayern Munich regularly won it on consecutive seasons.

"We have an opportunity and hopefully it is something we can tick off."

"It has the capability to be a fantastic final."

Barcelona are no strangers to European success having won the second of their two European titles in 2006 as the English Premier League champions square off against the Spanish league winners to decide Europe’s best team.

United are bidding for their fourth European crown and Ferguson says this is his side’s chance to again endorse themselves as the continent’s best.

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"This is an opportunity to put ourselves alongside some of the best teams who have walked on the European stage," said Ferguson who will be overseeing his 153rd Champions League game.

"They are a young team with a lot of potential who can match some of the best teams in Europe, hopefully we can endorse that."

With Cristiano Ronaldo leading United’s attack which includes the potent fire-power of Wayne Rooney, Ferguson says his side pose a threat to Barcelona’s goal while his defenders can cope with star opponent Lionel Messi.

"I think from our team perspective we always carry a threat to score a goal," said Sir Alex.

"Yes, Messi is a fantastic footballer, we played him twice last season, so we know how powerful he can be, but we have the players who can cope with him, although you have to respect someone like that.

"When my defenders are at the top of their game, there is no one to match them.

"It will be players who can create and do things well, who will win the game for us."

One of the most eagerly awaited clashes of Wednesday night’s final will see world player of 2008 Ronaldo against Argentina’s Messi and both players are capable of dominating European football’s showcase final.

But Ferguson refused to say which was the better player.

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"They are two fantastic footballers with courage to attack defenders all the time, no matter how many times they are knocked down, they have the courage to get up and attack again," he said.

"They both have tremendous qualities and at the end of the day, how can you decide which is better? It’s impossible to separate them in that regard."

With the Italian capital blessed with scorching temperatures, the final is expected to be played in considerable heat despite the 1945GMT kick-off time, but Ferguson said he is not concerned.

"We won’t know what effect it will have, but with technology in sport today a lot is done to avoid dehydration," he said.

"We have to rely on the resilience of our players."

Ferguson admitted inspiration for his final team talk had yet to dawn on him, but he said his side’s ability to again rise to the occasion will be a factor in determining who wins the 2009 title.

"When the chips were down in Porto in the quarter-final, the team rose to the challenge," said Ferguson after Ronaldo’s goal put United through in his native Portugal after drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford.

"The second leg at the Emirates (in the semi-final) was also impressive, where Arsenal had not lost.

"We didn’t play beyond themselves, the team played to their capabilities (and won 3-1).

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"They are a very good team when they do that.

"They are a good squad and you have to include all 20 players in that – now we just have to go that extra step."

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