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United defeat was typical Wilshere

Arsenal Ratings about an hour ago
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United defeat was typical Wilshere

Arsenal Ratings about an hour ago
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ArsenalArsenal
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Carlo's Ronaldo celebration

The Toe Poke about an hour ago
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By ESPN Staff
Apr 18, 2006

Fergie's good luck message to Forlan

Diego Forlan revealed Sir Alex Ferguson gave him a personal good luck message as the former Manchester United striker looks to shatter Arsenal's Champions League dreams when Villarreal head to Highbury on Wednesday night.

The Uruguay international has found his form since moving to Spain in the summer of 2004, following a disappointing spell at Old Trafford on the back of a big-money transfer.

Forlan was part of the side which helped knock Everton out of the Champions League qualifiers and then drew 0-0 with United at home as the Spaniards finished ahead of his old club in the group stages.

Now the 26-year-old is hoping to have a hand in ending the hopes of another English side, the first leg of the semi-final tie taking place in north London tomorrow.

'He was in the lobby of our hotel,' Forlan said.

'I did not know he was going to stay down after the Tottenham game [on Monday], I think he had a bit of business to do.

'He was in the same hotel, so I chatted with him.

'We spoke a little bit about different topics. He wished me luck and to have a good game tomorrow night.'

Currently eighth in the Spanish league, Villarreal were beaten 1-0 at Barcelona on Friday, albeit with a much-changed side as coach Manuel Pellegrini kept one eye on their trip to London.

There will have to be something of a makeshift defence tomorrow night, however, after Argentina centre-half Gonzalo Rodriguez suffered ankle ligament damage and will be out for the season, while Juan Manuel Pena picked up a knee problem.

But with Juan Roman Riquelme pulling the strings in midfield, the Spaniards' challenge cannot be underestimated.

'It is not the first time I have been in the semi-final, because I played for United against Leverkusen, but being here for the first time with Villarreal is hard to imagine,' Forlan said at tonight's official UEFA press conference.

'But we have been playing well for quite a long time, so we should not really be surprised at being in the semi-finals.'

The striker observed: 'Arsenal have been really strong defensively, it would be really good if we won the game and the semi-final because they have been defending really well.'

As to whether the Gunners are a better side this season than his old club, Forlan diplomatically said: 'They are two very good teams in the Premiership; United are doing better than Arsenal, but we know Arsenal are in the Champions League semi-final.

'They were away when they lost [in the Premiership], so it is difficult to say which team is better - they are both strong.'

Despite their successes against Everton and United, Forlan insisted: 'Arsenal is a different team.

'We played well against other English teams at different stages and we know it will be really hard.

'We will try and do what we have done before - try to win, that is the main target.

'You have to try and play the same way we have been playing - there are no special tricks, you just play according to your own game and take into consideration that they are very strong.

'We are going to try and get a good result so we can decide on the second leg.

'Scoring a goal is very important because they have been playing very solidly defensively.'

Forlan added: 'We know we are not the favourites. Every team is favourite against us - but on the pitch is where you speak.'

Arsenal have set a new record of eight consecutive clean sheets.

Villarreal coach Pellegrini reflected: 'I would not define Arsenal as just [Thierry] Henry and a good defence.

'They deserve to be here and have eliminated good teams like Real [Madrid] and Juventus.

'There are many coaches who try and stop Henry - but that is why he is Henry, he can invent amazing things on the pitch.

Pellegrini added: 'We are going to use a zonal defence.'