Cristiano Ronaldo is all smiles this season as he has been a powerful force behind Manchester United's potent offense.
PA wire

United seek CL semi-finals vs. Roma

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is still hopeful of getting Rio Ferdinand fit in time for tomorrow night's Champions League clash with Roma, although he believes he has plenty of experienced cover should the England defender fail to make it.

Ferdinand's fitness will be assessed in the morning after he limped out of the Barclays Premier League draw against Middlesbrough at the weekend with a foot problem.

"I am hoping Rio will play. His scan was clear, that was the important thing," Ferguson said.

"Therefore we are hoping we can get him fit to face Roma.

"We will report tomorrow at 11am, so he will have to do something at that time."

It looked as though he was heading for a spell on the sidelines like his defensive partner Nemanja Vidic, who has a knee injury.

Ferguson revealed today that Ferdinand may yet face the Italians in the quarter-final second leg at Old Trafford with United holding a 2-0 advantage.

However, should he fail to make it either Mikael Silvestre or Gary Neville are poised to step in after regaining full fitness.

Neville has been out for a year with an ankle problem while Silvestre has only just returned from a knee injury.

Ferguson said: "The good thing is they are both back and training well.

"Gary and Mikael will be involved and one of them may start depending on what happens to Rio.

"I am very confident of Gary's progress now and we know of his ability to play at this level.

"They both have good experience and that helps me in this situation."

While Neville is in line to make his 99th Champions League appearance, his team-mate Paul Scholes could reach the century mark in front of his home crowd.

Scholes has regained top form after a three-and-a-half-month absence with a knee injury and was influential in Rome.

Asked if the unassuming midfielder would be handed the armband, Ferguson quipped: "Paul would regard that as punishment!"

He added: "It took him a few weeks to get his rhythm back but now his form is fantastic."

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney continuing their scoring form at Middlesbrough following their goals in Italy, United emphasised their potent attacking force.

Both players look set to start even though there is an important Premier League match against Arsenal to follow on Sunday.

Ferguson said: "While there will be one or two changes, I have to play a team that is going to get through.

"It is difficult to leave Ronaldo out because of the form he is in.

"He has been absolutely outstanding this season and we need to get a result."

Ferguson has also been delighted with Rooney's all-round game.

"First of all he is only 21," said the United boss.

"So we are waiting for the completion of his potential.

"Hopefully that will occur in the next two to three years.

"In Rome he sacrificed his own role to help the team and that is the sign of a great player."

Ferguson is looking for his team to kick on right from the start against the Italian title-chasers.

He said: "My big hope is we can get the first goal. That will take the pressure off us and cause Roma a bigger problem.

"Knowing my team will try to do that and attack as best we can.

"We may have a bit of leeway but in a situation like this we never take anything for granted.

"We have to look on this as our most important match of the season.

"We worked our socks off in Rome and that is the kind of performance we need tomorrow."

Manchester United v. Roma: Head to Head

Manchester United can make it back-to-back Champions League semi-finals if they avoid a shock defeat to Roma at Old Trafford tomorrow night.

Here, PA Sport looks at how the clubs compare:

MANAGERS

Sir Alex Ferguson's haul of silverware since arriving at Old Trafford in 1986 stands up to any compiled in the history of English football - nine league titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups and a Cup Winners' Cup. The fact that 1999's Champions League triumph remains the only occasion his team has ruled Europe is a source of irritation and motivation in equal measure, and he appears to have assembled a squad capable of finally going all the way again.

Luciano Spalletti has proved a worthy long-term successor to Fabio Capello even though he has been working with a fraction of the budget lavished on the England boss. He proved his worth at Udinese, steering the unfashionable northern club to Champions League qualification with a fourth-place finish in Serie A. Since moving to the capital, he has taken Roma to the last eight of the Champions League, and last season the Giallorossi won the Italian Cup and finished second in the league - the position they currently occupy.

PAST MEETINGS

Last week's 2-0 victory confirmed United's superiority over a club they have met five times in the past year, having never encountered them in competitive action previously. Last season's 7-1 thrashing at Old Trafford - 8-3 on aggregate - at the same stage was a chastening experience for the Italians as they were dismantled by Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. In October, Rooney's smart finish handed United a 1-0 home win in the group stage before the teams drew in a dead rubber at the Stadio Olimpico in the return.

EUROPEAN PEDIGREE

Sir Matt Busby's great side - with George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton at its heart - first took the European Cup to the north-west in 1968 before United's late, late show in the Nou Camp 31 years later reclaimed the rebranded Champions League trophy for the Red Devils. The years since have largely been a disappointment - none more so than last year when they self-destructed in Milan in the semi-finals.

Roma won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup - the forerunner of the UEFA Cup - in 1961 but since then have had to make do with a runners-up finish in the European Cup in 1984 and in the UEFA Cup in 1991.

FORM

Sunday's 2-2 Premier League draw at Middlesbrough ended United's run of five straight wins in all competitions without conceding a goal. That included the 2-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico, which bucked the club's trend in recent seasons of underperforming away from home in the Champions League knockout phase.

Roma threw away a 2-0 lead against Genoa at the weekend before recovering to win 3-2. Prior to their first meeting with United, they were held to a 1-1 draw at lowly Cagliari. They are still four points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan.


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