Man Utd vow to do their duty

Manchester United lack seven first-team regulars but manager Alex Ferguson is adamant they will play fair as they press for victory against Lille in their Champions League match tonight. United, in second place, and Group G leaders Deportivo La Coruna have already qualified for the second phase of the competition. But Lille and fourth-placed Olympiakos are still contesting third place, which would see them qualify for the UEFA Cup. Olympiakos must beat Deportivo in Athens tonight to stand a chance of reaching the UEFA Cup. But even then the Greek club are reliant upon Lille failing to beat United in northern France. Ferguson’s side will be weakened after Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs, Fabien Barthez, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and Roy Keane were all left behind in Manchester when United flew to Lille yesterday. But United know victory could help them get to the top of the group and earn a place in the second phase. Ferguson insisted he was treating the match seriously. We are going there to try and win the match – not only for ourselves but also out of respect for Olympiakos, Ferguson told the Manchester Evening News yesterday. They are still in the hunt for a UEFA Cup spot with Lille for finishing third in the group, so we mustn’t let up when there are still issues to be decided. Olympiakos are playing against Deportivo, and if they win, and we beat Lille, then they’ll get that spot, so we’ve got to be fair. Ferguson is also looking for United to ease the travel sickness that has seen his side win just four Champions League matches away from Old Trafford in 15 attempts since lifting the trophy in 1999. The Manchester side beat Olympiakos 2-0 in Athens three weeks ago but, with one eye on tougher tasks ahead against the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich or Barcelona, Ferguson is demanding that his side toughen up. Going away from home and winning is a part of the psyche of European football, he said. It is a very important part of it and you get into the stream of things if you keep on winning. You don’t want to ease up because winning away from home becomes a good habit. We got back into it by beating Olympiakos and now we want to keep that going by sending a team out to win. Keane, Brown, Giggs and Barthez are all suffering from injuries, but Ferguson also wants to rest some of his players ahead of their trip to rivals Liverpool in the English premier league. Olympiakos will be without defender Stelios Venetidis, midfielder Ze Elias, and striker Lambros Houtos, all of them injured, for their Champions League match at home to Deportivo La Coruna tonight. Also injured, midfielder Predrag Djordjevic is doubtful, while Brazilian striker Giovanni is suspended. (Reuters)

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