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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

There will be no Lille repeat - Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson is confident there will be no repeat of Manchester United's Champions League horror show against Lille next spring.

The Red Devils got the draw all eight group stages winners wanted when his side were paired with the French minnows in the last 16.

Widely acknowledged to be the weakest team remaining in the competition, Lille should offer Ferguson's men the best chance possible of ending a miserable run which has seen them win just one knockout tie in the competition - against Deportivo La Coruna in 2002 - since they won it in Barcelona eight seasons ago.

However, no-one at Old Trafford will need any reminding United failed to beat Lille in two group stages tussles last term, following up a goalless draw on home soil with a shocking defeat at the Stade de France a fortnight later.

'We had a bad experience last year but this is a different United team,' Ferguson told the club's website, www.manutd.com

'It is an emerging team, which is getting better all the time. We know it will be a difficult tie but we have improved so much from last season.'

United will not head back to Paris again as Lille have opted to play all their Champions League matches at the 41,000-capacity Stade Felix-Bollaert in Lens this term.

The relatively short journey to northern France should go down well with Ferguson too, especially as the Premiership leaders have a Saturday lunchtime trip to Fulham immediately after the away leg.

However, the Scot knows it will take more than one victory over Lille to re-establish his side among the European elite once more.

Successive last 16 exits, followed by the abysmal group stage departure 12 months ago has robbed United of what had been a formidable European record over the previous decade.

'In a way, it didn't really matter who we got. The important thing is that we are there,' said Ferguson.

'Our European record over the last few years has not done us any good.

'This club has had some great European challenges over the years and some terrific journeys. We have played in semi-finals and quarter-finals and a final.

'The current team is young enough to do this for years now but we have to prove we can get to that level again. That is the direction this club should be taking.'