Manchester United go into the Club World Cup final against Liga de Quito today driven by their desire to claim more silverware, and the odds are heavily stacked in their favor.
No British team has ever won the tournament, with Liverpool coming closest in 2005 when they made the final and were beaten by Sao Paulo 1-0.
Sir Alex Ferguson had some concerns with his side’s defensive lapses against Gamba Osaka on Thursday when they conceded three late goals and is aware that Liga used lightning counterattacks to break down Pachuca in their semi-final.
With that in mind, he is taking nothing for granted, knowing through experience that games against South American opponents are never easy.
“I’m very pleased that we’re in the final, but we will be facing a stern test as Liga de Quito are very strong defensively,” he said of the Ecuadorians. “My assistant Mick Phelan and I saw a video of their semi-final against Pachuca and also had them watched by a scout. Quito are a typically South American side — solid at the back and dangerous in front of goal. It will certainly be anything but an easy match, but it is the final of the Club World Cup so you can’t expect an easy ride.”
Ferguson said on Saturday that striker Dimitar Berbatov had still not fully shaken off a virus, but will be on the bench, adding that he would likely make changes to the team that played on Thursday.
“I’ve not decided on my team, but I may go for fresh legs this time,” he said, confirming only that Park Ji-sung was a definite starter.
The South American champions know they are clear underdogs against their European counterparts, but vowed to pull out all the stops for the biggest match of their lives Their Argentine coach Edgardo Bauza, who will be in charge for the last time before quitting the team, remains confident.
“It will be the match of our lives,” he said. “Even though we are not favorites, we will be at the top of our game and do our best. I don’t know how we will handle the best team in England, but I know my players will give everything they’ve got.”
Ferguson has repeatedly drummed into his squad the importance of winning this tournament and it seems to be rubbing off, with the players excited about lifting a trophy no British team has ever got their hands on before.
“I really want to win this trophy after the year I have had,” Cristiano Ronaldo said. “Not just for me, but for United. No other British team has won it and we want to be the first to do that. And I believe it will give us extra motivation to win the Champions League and Premier League again.”
Patrice Evra, who will be playing his last match before a four-game ban kicks in for his part in a brawl at Chelsea last season, said victory would cap a year to remember with three major trophies in United’s possession.
“If we are professional and do our job, I think we have a great chance,” he said. “To be named world champions after winning the league and the Champions League would make it an amazing year.”
Bauza pinpointed Ronaldo as the main threat, but admitted the whole team was world class.
“You’d need six defenders to keep Ronaldo out, so we won’t do anything special for him,” he said. “But it’s not just Ronaldo. There’s Nani on the other wing, and Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney in the middle. They also have a very good defense. We don’t have their attributes, but we will attack and hope to win. We have quick and clever players too. The British teams move the ball around a lot, so we need to control that and try to keep possession.”