Los Blancos are currently 16 points adrift of La Liga leaders Barcelona and have recently slipped up against Granada, Valencia and Osasuna to all but end their hopes of retaining a Spanish title that was won in such admirable fashion last season.
As a result, the pressure is on manager Jose Mourinho to deliver on the continent and end an 11-year wait for the European Cup, meaning the Portuguese is likely to rotate his squad domestically in order to prioritise the much-hyped second round tie with United.
“I think their target is the European Cup,” Sir Alex said when quizzed on Real’s priorities. “They got a bad start in the league and were chasing their tail a bit because Barcelona’s form has been incredible. I think Jose has set his targets firmly on the European Cup, no doubt about that.
“It can be harder for us but there’s a bit of pressure for them too. At this moment in time we’re involved in three things. Jose has still got the semi final of the Copa del Rey, they play Barca next week and then again in a league game before we play them on the Tuesday at Old Trafford. So they’ve got a big programme themselves.
"You look at English football and say it’s a very, very difficult programme and every game is hard but you look at Madrid’s programme at the moment and it’s also very difficult. Every game is hard.