Champions' League quarter-finals: United happy to slip under the radar as hope springs eternal

If Arsenal's double-header with Liverpool in the Champions' League quarter-final has dominated the headlines and bulletins so far, Manchester United and Chelsea will be perfectly happy with that. After being beaten in the season's two other cup competitions by Tottenham and Barnsley, and demanding more respect from the media, Chelsea's Avram Grant would like nothing more than a period out of the spotlight, and he must be delighted to have drawn the rank outsiders Fenerbahce.

Not that he is allowed to say so. Nor would Sir Alex Ferguson be drawn into any whoops of pleasure, confining himself to surprise at facing a sixth match against AS Roma within a year. For United, however, there has been nothing in the previous four to bring the sort of fear that some of their supporters experienced in being confronted by the more thuggish of the Italian club's ultras in the Eternal City.

Hope springs eternal for United, even after disappointment in the competition every year bar the one that is now almost a decade in the past. Beggars cannot be choosers at this level, but there have been seasons in which a third European Cup would have been particularly appropriate; notably in 2002, when defeat by the unfancied Bayer Leverkusen cost Ferguson an emotional Glasgow final; and the following year, when the venue for the final was Old Trafford but Real Madrid saw off United. So to the 50th anniversary season of the Munich air disaster, with romantics outside London and Merseyside hoping this might be the time.

Once again, Roma are second to Internazionale in Serie A, without much hope of catching them, so unless Inter collapse in the wake of two defeats by Liverpool, the one advantage United's opponents will have is a clearer focus. Roma faced Ferguson's side earlier in the season, when United were struggling to score. Bizarrely, the 1-0 victory over Roma at Old Trafford in October was United's sixth by that margin in seven first-team games. "It's a disease, I'm trying to get a vaccine for it," Ferguson smiled at the time, adding: "The goals will come."

Even the manager may have been surprised how quickly and comprehensively his confidence was justified, with 22 goals in the next five games. Wayne Rooney, who only got off the mark for the season in the Roma match, was suddenly in full flow and Cristiano Ronaldo, also making a slow start, has since found the net with the regularity of a star centre-forward.

"Thirty goals from a winger, that's unbelievable," his team-mate Rio Ferdinand said in the wake of the one that beat Lyon in the last Champions' League game. "Not since John Barnes at Liverpool in his heyday has any winger got near that amount." Barnes never matched it and, because of Liverpool's European ban, never came close to European Cup success. Ronaldo and United are on the scent again.

Match-by-match guide, by Steve Tongue

Arsenal v Liverpool (2, 8 April) Statistics and style suggest that this ought to be an improvement on the grim Chelsea-Liverpool ties. Even if Arsène Wenger's men are smothered at home by the Rafael Benitez blanket, they will remember Milan and remain confident.

F enerbahce v Chelsea (2, 8 April) Chelsea's 5-0 win away to Galatasaray in 1999 was a rare comfortable trip to Turkey for any British club. They cannot expect a repeat and should be happy with an away goal and a draw from the first leg.

Roma v Manchester Utd (1, 9 April) Only one win in the past year's four meetings for Roma, which was 2-1 at home after Paul Scholes had been sent off. This season's group games (0-1 and 1-1) were tighter. But take United to progress.

Schalke v Barcelona (1, 9 April) The bookmakers' decision to drop Barcelona to second favourites comes after a lapse or two in the Spanish league, but they should see off the Germans, who were fortunate to squeeze past Porto on penalties.

Latest odds (supplied by William Hill) 3-1 Manchester Utd, 100-30 Barcelona, 7-2 Chelsea, 5-1 Arsenal, 7-1 Liverpool, 14-1 Roma, 33-1 Schalke, 40-1 Fenerbahce.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project