• Sir Alex Ferguson has three in-form centre-backs available
• United manager thinks both sides will score at Old Trafford
Sir Alex Ferguson has warned Manchester United not to fear the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo, with the manager believing defence will be key to Manchester United knocking Real Madrid out of the Champions League at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Ferguson faces a selection dilemma at centre-back where has to choose two of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans, though he confirmed that Phil Jones's ankle injury has ruled him out.
The last-16 tie is poised at 1-1 following the draw at the Bernabéu three weeks ago, so a scoreless draw would be enough for United to progress.
In the 1-0 win over Barcelona in the 2008 semi-final second leg Paul Scholes registered the only goal of the tie after 14 minutes and United then ensured that the visitors did not score. Asked if his side might require a similar defensive performance, Ferguson said: "That probably will be the key to the game. As we know, they are one of the best counterattacking teams in Europe and that showed last Tuesday in the Nou Camp [when they beat Barcelona]. They were stunning on the counterattack. We have to find a way of coping with that but also having our own threat."
Regarding Jones, who hurt an ankle a fortnight ago and only began training at the end of last week, Ferguson said: "He is not fit. He won't be fit for tomorrow. His performance over there [in the first leg] was absolutely excellent. It is a miss but we can deem it as something we can't manage. We have got options. We hope we get that right."
Ferguson is aware of the danger Ronaldo poses. "My biggest concern is if he turns up," the Scot joked. "What do you expect if you play against him? You expect problems during the night and you try to prepare for it as best you can. It won't be easy because he does it every week. The experience young Rafa [da Silva] had in Madrid will hold him in good stead [when he was given a difficult time] because he will be doing the same again. I don't think it is one we should fear. If we go out fearing the damage Cristiano can do us then we will forget what we can do."
The manager is pleased at the selection headache he faces regarding Vidic, who did not play at the Bernabéu, Evans and Ferdinand. "It's good to have that kind of problems because the three centre-backs are playing very well," he said. "I couldn't be happier with the three of them."
Ferguson believes each side will score. This means unless there is a 1-1 draw at the close of extra time, in which case penalties would be needed, United will have to beat Madrid. "There will be goals and I think both teams will score. We have to think we will score more," he said. "Both teams are in form. As a European night I don't think you get any bigger than this one – great clubs with great histories. It is set up to be a potentially marvellous game and I don't think it will be a disappointment either."
Ryan Giggs, who will make a 1,000th senior appearance after Ferguson stated he would feature, said: "[You are] proud of playing that many games. I have had a lot of things going for me [including] the continuity of manager [being at United throughout]."
Ten years ago United beat Real 4-3 at home in a quarter-final second leg, though the Spaniards went through 6-5 on aggregate. Giggs, who played that night, said: "I think every time you play in Europe you learn different lessons. Madrid scoring early, [through the Brazilian Ronaldo] it was always going to be an uphill task. Hopefully that won't happen [again].
"You learn from every experience and try to get ahead and score the first goal. You know the crowd will get behind you, you know the confidence that will give you. But we would back ourselves to come back from a goal behind as we have done so many times this season. When you get a game like that with so many goals, it could be similar when you have that much firepower on the pitch – there will be chances and goals."
Ronaldo scored all of Real's goals 10 years ago and he was given a standing ovation when replaced during the second half. Asked for comparisons between the two Ronaldos, Ferguson said: "The older one, the fatter one, he was at his peak as a centre forward then. [Cristiano] Ronaldo is a supreme unbelievable athlete. He never misses a game, he has pace, physique, great in the air. They are different types of course but our main worry is not what happened 10 years ago but what happens now."