Protest won't harm Old Trafford atmosphere insists Ferguson

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson is confident Manchester United's 'anti-Glazer' faction will set aside their grievances to cheer his side to victory against AC Milan at Old Trafford tonight.

It has been a notable few days in the battle for United ownership, with Ferguson furiously denying he had expressed a willingness to join the 'Red Knights' if they were to wrest control of the club out of the hands of the current American owners, who they feel have burdened Old Trafford with far too much debt.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust have recorded huge rises in membership, beyond 120,000, with the green and gold scarves now such a notable feature of Red Devils' matches.

Ferguson knows they will be in evidence again this evening, as United bid to defend a 3-2 first-leg lead and reach the quarter-finals for the fourth season on the trot.

However, the Scot believes suggestions for fans to delay entry into the stadium for 10 minutes as a sign of protest will have any effect, and he feels there will be a strong sense of unity as United aim to overcome the seven-times winners.

"The fans won't do that," said Ferguson of the rumoured protests. "It is too important a game.

"Old Trafford will be rocking and I am sure whether they are wearing the traditional red and white or the protest green and gold scarves the supporters will be united and speaking with one voice to get us safely through."

Although Wes Brown is out for up to six weeks to join Anderson, Michael Owen, Michael Carrick and, probably, Ryan Giggs on the sidelines, Ferguson has been dealt one major pre-match boost.

Wayne Rooney is expected to play after recovering from a knee injury that kept him out of Saturday's win at Wolves.

The 28-goal striker has been in explosive form this season after being given more responsibility since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

Not that Ferguson believes the two things are connected. In fact, he wishes Ronaldo was still around to partner the new, improved Rooney.

"Ronaldo's departure has nothing to do with Wayne's form," argued the United boss.

"The credit must go to Wayne's development as a footballer and his rise in the game.

"I just wish we still had Cristiano here as well."

In trying to ignore what he feels is the circus that surrounds David Beckham's first visit to Old Trafford as a visiting player, Ferguson's analysis of Milan apparently does not include the former England skipper.

"I am finding it difficult to pick their team but I don't know whether Beckham will start," said Ferguson.

"I have not got that down in my conclusions about their team.

"He has not started a game since the first leg, so it is difficult to say what impact he will have on the game.

"But he will be there and the one thing you have to be aware of is his delivery of the ball, which is fantastic.

"That is the threat. There are a lot of threats in their team of course, but we are well aware of David's."

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