Date: 6th December 2005 at 5:56pm
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Sir Alex Ferguson believes his players will deliver at the Stadium of Light.

Manchester United’s two previous competitive encounters with Benfica have gone down in history for all the right reasons.

Not since 1994 have United exited UEFA’s premier tournament at the group stage and it is a decade since Sir Alex Ferguson toasted his New Year’s Eve birthday without European combat to look forward to the following spring.

Ferguson: ‘I trust the players. They are a good bunch of lads. They are honest, they have the ability and they have the desire. Our pride and confidence would be hurt if we didn’t go through.

‘Not only that, no-one likes to read bad things about themselves and some of the younger players have taken a lot of unfair criticism over the last few weeks, so that is another incentive to make sure we get the right result.

‘I don’t know whether more people will want us to win because of George’s death. Over the last week or so, there has been a fantastic respect shown to one of our greatest players and I think we all appreciate that.

‘But that does not concern me tomorrow night. It doesn’t worry me one bit. We still have to win the game. It doesn’t matter who is watching in England, America, Australia, Germany. It does not matter.’

Ferguson is mostly right, with the notable exception of one family in Florida, to whom the result matters very much indeed.