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Sir Alex: We want to win it

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson insists the club will be playing to win the Europa League after questions about their desire to be in Europe's secondary club competition.

United were surprisingly knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage, with Sir Alex saying that a place in the Europa League was their punishment. UEFA president Michel Platini was angered by those comments, though Sir Alex said they were taken the wrong way.

Now the United boss says he will be playing a strong side when the Red Devils take on Ajax in the Round of 32 this week. It will be the first time the two sides have ever met in a competitive match.

He said: "We definitely want to win this tournament. I am treating this seriously. We're going to have a go. The thing is to look forward to it. It's still European football, it's still a good standard of football.

"The great thing is that we don't have a game on the Saturday, so I can play my strongest team - and I will play my strongest team. It's a bit of a bonus for us. It's amazing that in 55 years' involvement in Europe, we've never played each other.

"The name of Ajax still has that aura about it. They are not having a great time at the moment and their directors have resigned, but I think playing against United they'll be well motivated. Like ourselves, they have always produced good players and played good football.

"They have a great stadium and great pitch. Hopefully we can get through. If we do, we play Athletic Bilbao or Lokomotiv Moscow in the next round, so that would be a challenge, but then it takes you to the quarter-finals and once you get that far you say to yourself: 'let's go the whole road'.

"I'll treat it as I treated some of the group games in the Champions League, but be a bit more careful with the number of young players I play in these games. It depends who we've got the following weekend in the Premier League."

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