Ferguson happy with CL chances
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is optimistic the squad he has at his disposal can go all the way in the Champions League this season - and has identified Real Madrid, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund as their main rivals.
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United can secure a place in the last 16 of the competition with victory in Wednesday evening's Group H clash with Braga at the Estadio AXA, or even a draw depending on the outcome of Cluj's match against Galatasaray.
And looking beyond that, Ferguson is feeling good about his side's prospects overall, with Spanish giants Real and Barca and German champions Dortmund - currently top of Group D ahead of Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City - the other teams he believes have "outstanding chances".
Asked if he felt he had a group of players capable of winning the tournament this season, Ferguson said: "I made a point about how strong the Champions League is and we will need to perform at a real high level to do that.
"I think you can't look past Real Madrid and Barcelona, and I do think Dortmund's campaign will be about the Champions League this year.
"If you look at their league form (they are fifth in the Bundesliga) it tells me they are preparing themselves to do well in the Champions League.
"I think those three teams will have outstanding chances, and I hope we can join them, because I think we have a good squad of players.
"The area I'm most pleased about is the attacking part of my team - I think there are goals there.
"Obviously we have some work to do on the defending part, but I think the other encouraging part is that bit by bit, we are collecting a good group of outstanding young midfield players."
Although United have frequently fallen behind in matches this term - they went 2-0 down at home to Braga last month before eventually triumphing 3-2 - they have won 12 of their 15 fixtures in all competitions and not only lead Group H with nine points from three games, but also the Barclays Premier League.
Ferguson's options have been boosted by the return to fitness of Chris Smalling, who he has indicated is in line for his first appearance of the season.
Smalling, sidelined this term by a broken metatarsal, was included in United's travelling party to Portugal having stepped up his rehabilitation in training and Ferguson says he is intending for the England international to be "involved" this evening.
Further good news for United is that Smalling's fellow defender Phil Jones, who is also yet to play this campaign due to back and knee problems, is set to resume full training next week.
Ferguson said: "Since the start of the season, we've been operating on the borderline in terms of certain defenders having to play all the time, and also having to play (midfielder) Michael Carrick as a centre-back.
"They can only help us with that - those two are outstanding young defenders and it will give us a fantastic squad to take on all our challenges."
Braga are currently third in Group H on three points, while second-placed Cluj are on four and rock-bottom Galatasaray on one.