The Marseille coach Didier Deschamps has rebutted Alex Ferguson's claims that he deliberately played for a 0-0 draw in the Champions League last 16 first leg, insisting his side are capable of a shock in their clash with Manchester United.
Deschamps admits the French team are massive underdogs while United possess an "armada" of attacking talent. But he denied suggestions that Marseille were only playing for an away-goal victory.
"I don't know whether 0-0 in the first leg was a fair result, but it is hardly the ideal result for the home team," he explained. "I wouldn't ask my team to play for that, though at the same time you give yourself more chance to go through if you do not concede. You have to be careful in these games. We want to be as positive as we can but not give anything away, because we know we are playing against a team that will give us absolutely nothing. The strikers I select will have an extremely important role to play, because we might only get three or four chances to score all night, but if we can take one it could make a big difference."
News that Nani will be fit for at least part of Manchester United's Champions League game came just in time for Deschamps to congratulate him on his performance in the first leg. The goalless draw at the Stade Vélodrome struck most observers as a sterile, unambitious affair but the Marseille coach was impressed by the Portuguese winger's contribution.
"He caused us a few problems," Deschamps said. "With his pace on the ball he has the ability to speed the game up, but he is only one of United's armada of attacking options. We can't just think about Nani, there is [Wayne] Rooney, [Dimitar] Berbatov and Chicharito [Javier Hernández] to think about as well. They can pose problems for any team."
During his final season as a Juventus player Deschamps gained a first hand view of United on their way to a treble, though he is too diplomatic to be drawn on whether a treble is on again this season, or whether the present side matches up to the class of 1999. "That was a long time ago, and I was young," he said.
"I don't like to make comparisons between different eras but I am aware that to win those three trophies was a pretty unique achievement. That's what Manchester United seem to be good at though, making history, doing exceptional things. It is not for me to say what they could win this year, but you know at the start of each season that they are one of just four or five teams that has a chance of winning the Champions League. They have a very good record, quarter-finals, semi-finals, finals. They are usually there or thereabouts."
En route to the Champions League final in 1994 Deschamps' Monaco accounted for both Chelsea and Real Madrid, though as the coach pointed out they had the home leg second both times. "That usually counts in your favour," he said.
"The fixtures are reversed this time, and statistics suggest 70% of teams win if they are at home second. So 0-0 in the first leg was a better result for Manchester United than us. On the other hand, in both cases, the key to going through is not to give much too much away in the first leg, and we have managed that part. I think United will try to attack us without taking risks. They are solid at the back and dangerous in attack, but most of all they are familiar with this sort of situation, they know what to do. We have given ourselves a chance, the tie is still open, but United have all the experience and we will have to be 100% on top of our game."
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