"When I started as a coach many years ago, I dreamt I'd be playing against the top teams as a manager and you get the opportunity to do that in the Champions League on a regular basis.
"There is a special significance when you play the big teams and you'll see that tomorrow. It's just a shame we and Real are meeting this early. I wish it had been at Wembley, in the final."
When asked what kind of game he expects, Sir Alex replied:
"It won't be 0-0 tomorrow night, I can assure you of that. This match can live up to expectations. History always plays a part in this type of game, as does the two teams' desire to go forward.
"Real Madrid are one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe. Their speed from box to box is fantastic. But we have to play our own game too. Our intention is to win and to score."
As ever, the United manager kept his team-selection cards close to his chest, although he did indicate there could be at least one change from the line-up which overcame Everton at the weekend.
"We didn't play Shinji Kagawa on Sunday because he had a long trip back from Japan," said Sir Alex. "I wanted him fresh in case I decide to use him tomorrow so I rested him against Everton. He will certainly be involved at some stage tomorrow."