By Derick Allsop
Sir Alex Ferguson insists Manchester United have the players to upstage Lionel Messi and Barcelona to win the Champions League.
But the United manager was quick to ease the burden of responsibility and expectation on his own top player, Wayne Rooney.
While the watching millions will focus on Rooney’s contribution to the United cause, and a potential duel with Lionel Messi, Fergie brusquely declared: “The world can do what they like.”
Ferguson, seeking a third victory in European club football’s elite competition to add to his 12 Premier League titles, is pinning his faith on United’s range of talents.
“If you see the kind of players we have, you expect them to make an impact,” he said. “In Antonio Valencia, Nani, Javier Hernandez and Rooney we have players who can create and are also goalscorers.
“Barcelona deserve to be favourites. Their form has been fantastic this season. They are a terrific side. We’ll have to pay attention to Messi and all their great players.
“We are aware of their passing routines and the way they keep the ball away from you. Possession is part of the way they play, but they also press the ball really well.
“But there is a danger you worry too much about the opposition. We have to make sure we play our game as best we can.
“We’ve got to make our impact on the match. We have enough players in the squad to do that.
“What Messi has achieved already is fantastic, but the time to judge him against the other greats will be at the end of his career.
“Rooney’s form has been good for the last two or three months. But we’ve got other players, like Valencia, who are fresh and that’s important.”
United were outplayed by Barcelona in the final of 2009 and although Ferguson is reluctant to dwell on events in Rome, he is confident lessons have been learned.
He said: “There’s no point going over that, it’s the past. We’ve analysed it many times and we know where we stand.
“We’ve got our day at Wembley and we’ll be all right. Hopefully, we can correct it. We’ve got a chance.”
Ferguson credits Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola with introducing the pressing and tight passing game that has made them the best.
And Ferguson is confident football skills will dominate at Wembley after the hostility and gamesmanship that tarnished Barca’s semi-final with Real Madrid.
He said: “I nearly signed Guardiola long ago. I spoke with his agent when he left Barcelona and went to Italy.
“A lot of what happened against Real Madrid was to do with tribalism. A bit like Celtic-Rangers, us and Liverpool. They went over the top.”