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By ESPN Staff
Nov 22, 2006

Ferguson: Defeat must inspire Chelsea win

Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced Manchester United's gut-wrenching Champions League defeat to Celtic can inspire them to victory over Chelsea on Sunday.

After taking maximum points from their opening three games, United's European hopes now rest on a last-day encounter with Benfica for the second season on the trot.

Twelve months ago, the task of beating the Portuguese giants at the Stadium of Light proved too much for Ferguson's men, who crashed out of Europe before Christmas for the first time in a decade.

At least this time, on home soil, a draw will do, although it is hardly a situation Ferguson and his team could have imagined when they made their flying start.

However, the long-serving Red Devils chief has enough faith in the character within his squad to believe they can lift themselves this weekend, when victory over Jose Mourinho's men will see United open a six-point lead at the Premiership summit.

'Obviously we are disappointed but the good thing is we have big matches before the Benfica game to focus on,' he said, after last night's 1-0 defeat.

'We can put Europe on the backburner and concentrate on Sunday's match, which is massive for us.

'I am sure it is a game the players will relish given this result.

'We have five days to lift the team now. But if the players have ambitions to win the league they know how important Sunday is and I don't think they will not let anyone down.'

Although comparisons with 12 months ago are bound to be raised, the situation is more like the one United faced in 2000 when they entertained Dynamo Kiev needing a win to seal a spot in the last 16.

On that occasion they succeeded, but only after a late scare when the Ukrainian side came agonisingly close to knocking them out.

Ferguson accepts the current scenario should not have arisen, with Louis Saha wasting a golden opportunity to put them through in the final minute at Celtic Park when he saw his penalty turned away by Arthur Boruc, leaving the hosts to toast Shunsuke Nakamura's 80th-minute free-kick.

'It is a shock to lose, really hard to take,' admitted Ferguson.

'We have thrown this game away because we did not take our chances.

'As a club, we always seem to do things the hard way and we have to do it the hard way again this time.

'To qualify we need a point off Benfica. It is a home match, so we will try to win.

'I have no worries about our home form, or our character. But we need to get that result.'