red devils 'in pound seat'

LONDON - Alex Ferguson believes titleholders Manchester United are perfectly placed to take advantage of the pressure on Arsenal in tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg as the holders aim to return to the final of Europe's elite club competition.

LONDON - Alex Ferguson believes titleholders Manchester United are perfectly placed to take advantage of the pressure on Arsenal in tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg as the holders aim to return to the final of Europe's elite club competition.

Ferguson's side travel to the Emirates Stadium in the ascendancy after John O'Shea's goal secured a 1-0 win in the first leg last week.

A draw would be enough for United to reach the final for the second successive season. The Premier League leaders could even lose and still go through on away goals if they score and are defeated by just a one-goal margin.

Arsenal's young, injury-hit team were struck by stage-fright in the first leg and the tie could have been beyond rescue but for a series of superb saves from Manuel Almunia.

With the final at Rome's Stadio Olimpico tantalisingly close, Ferguson expects United to prey on Arsenal's nerves again in north London.

The United manager is convinced United are in pole position because Arsenal's failure to score at Old Trafford means they now have to play a more open game, leaving the way open for Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and company on the counter-attack.

"They must be worried about us scoring. Any team who goes to play the second leg at home when they haven't scored in the first must worry about losing that goal. That's a fact of life," Ferguson said.

Key to United's success in the first leg was the dominance of Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Anderson in central midfield.

Ferguson rested all three midfielders for Saturday's 2-0 win at Middlesbrough and Fletcher admitted United's game plan will again focus on knocking Arsenal out of their stride.

Ferguson's only concern is the fitness of England defender Rio Ferdinand, who missed the Middlesbrough match with a rib injury suffered in the first leg. France left-back Patrice Evra is expected to shake off a leg injury suffered on Saturday.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists his players won't be so timid in attack this time and he takes heart from the obdurate form of their defence at the Emirates.

The Gunners, who won 3-0 at Portsmouth despite resting eight players on Saturday, haven't conceded a home league goal since December 21.

They have already beaten United at the Emirates this season, though a repeat of that 2-1 win wouldn't be enough to reach the final.

"We have a good defensive record at the Emirates, and in the Premier League Manchester United have suffered in away games," Wenger said. - Sapa-AFP

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