Sir Alex Ferguson hopes Manchester United can challenge for Champions League
Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping he has a Manchester United squad capable of winning the UEFA Champions League this season.
Last Updated: 07/11/12 7:08pm
United won the competition in 2008 before being soundly beaten in the 2009 and 2011 finals by Barcelona, but failed to progress beyond the group phase last season.
Victory over Braga on Wednesday night will guarantee a last-16 spot and Ferguson is optimistic of a long run in the Champions League after identifying his three main threats.
Asked if he felt he had a group of players capable of winning the tournament this season, Ferguson said: "I made a point about how strong the Champions League is and we will need to perform at a real high level to do that.
"I think you can't look past Real Madrid and Barcelona, and I do think Dortmund's campaign will be about the Champions League this year.
"If you look at their league form (they are fifth in the Bundesliga) it tells me they are preparing themselves to do well in the Champions League.
"I think those three teams will have outstanding chances, and I hope we can join them, because I think we have a good squad of players.
"The area I'm most pleased about is the attacking part of my team - I think there are goals there.
"Obviously we have some work to do on the defending part, but I think the other encouraging part is that bit by bit, we are collecting a good group of outstanding young midfield players."
Ferguson's options have been boosted by the return to fitness of Chris Smalling, who he has indicated is in line for his first appearance of the season against Braga.
Smalling, sidelined this term by a broken metatarsal, was included in United's travelling party to Portugal having stepped up his rehabilitation in training and Ferguson says he is intending for the England international to be "involved".
Further good news for United is that Smalling's fellow defender Phil Jones, who is also yet to play this campaign due to back and knee problems, is set to resume full training next week.
Ferguson said: "Since the start of the season, we've been operating on the borderline in terms of certain defenders having to play all the time, and also having to play Michael Carrick as a centre-back.
"They can only help us with that - those two are outstanding young defenders and it will give us a fantastic squad to take on all our challenges."