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"Marseille are a handful at their own ground, their fantastic atmosphere and incredible support guarantees that."

- Sir Alex Ferguson
17/12/2010 12:45, Report by A Bostock, G Thompson
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Boss welcomes French test

Sir Alex Ferguson is looking forward to France in February, following United's pairing with Olympique Marseille in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

The Reds will travel to Stade Velodrome on Wednesday 23 February 2011 and then entertain the French champions at Old Trafford on Tuesday 15 March. And while some United fans may be happy to have avoided the Italian giants in the draw, including European Cup holders Internazionale, the boss believes Marseille will make tricky opponents.

Giving his immediate reaction to MUTV, Sir Alex said: "Everyone thought we might get one of the Milan sides because we’ve faced them quite a few times in the last few years, but we got Marseille in the draw rehearsal and it proved right.

"Marseille are a handful at their own ground. The fantastic atmosphere and their incredible support guarantees that. They’ve had a good change in fortunes in the last two or three years, after a dry spell, and think it’ll be a difficult tie."

Although United haven't faced Marseille for more than a decade, there are some familiar faces in the opposition camp.

"[Former Chelsea midfielder] Didier Deschamps is the coach there," said the boss, "and they've got one of our old players in Gabriel Heinze so it’ll be nice to see him."

Sir Alex said of the previous meetings in 1999/2000: "I remember the games well. We won 2-1 at Old Trafford, but lost 1-0 over there when William Gallas scored for them. It wasn’t a good performance from us that night."

As for the rest of the last-16 draw, the manager commented: "Quite a lot of people predicted Arsenal against Barcelona and that’s the most interesting tie.

"Chelsea go to Copenhagen and should get through that one. It’ll be interesting to see Milan and Spurs and also Inter and Bayern Munich – a repeat of last season’s final. So there

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