Football: Hoddle endorses United quest

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Manchester United will win this year's championship and reach the final of the European Champions' Cup. That was the ringing endorsement from Glenn Hoddle, the England coach, as United flew to Germany yesterday for tomorrow's European Cup semi-final first leg against Borussia Dortmund.

United were further encouraged by news of an injury crisis for Dortmund. Matthias Sammer is already suspended and Julio Cesar, his natural replacement, is injured. Jurgen Kohler and Andy Moller are doubtful while the striking pair, Karlheinz Riedle and Stephane Chapuisat, have knocks but are expected to play. The comment: "The pressure of matches is talking its toll," is usually ascribed to Ferguson at this stage of the season, but yesterday it came from Omar Hitzfield, Dortmund's coach. United travelled with a full squad.

"The quarter-final win over Porto will have given give United immense confidence," Hoddle said. "They will approach Dortmund the same way - showing maturity and seeking to weather the storm. Sammer's suspension is a hell of a blow to Dortmund, especially at home. That is where they will be looking for him to be at his most dangerous, breaking out from the back and causing United problems. They rely on him and I have a good feeling United will come away with a result. They can go all the way.

"They have learned a lot from the Turin defeat to Juventus and have grown as a side," Hoddle added. "What happened then was unfortunate but it is a sad fact of life that you learn more from the downs than you do from the peaks. I hope we can do that at international level by learning from what happened against Italy.

"Manchester United have certainly done that. If they play Juventus in the final, it would be closer than close. Even if they do not, I think they will win the championship and they will be much better equipped for Europe next season.

"One reason is their young players. David Beckham, Gary Neville and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have learned very quickly this season."

Two of that group are English, and Hoddle added: "The good thing is that United, like Liverpool, have a lot of English players. It was not always the case when we were doing well in Europe before."

Hoddle also had a few words on the Frenchman. "He [Cantona] is the sort of player who responds to semi-finals and finals. Look at the FA Cup final, when his little bit of magic won the game. He popped up and the match was won. I think that is his style now: he might not influence a whole game but he can turn it in a moment."

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