Fergie desperate to win Club World Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/f/ferguson_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Sir Alex Ferguson is desperate for Manchester United to be the first British team to get their hands on the Club World Cup

Updated: December 15, 2008 18:33 IST
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Sir Alex Ferguson is desperate for Manchester United to be the first British team to get their hands on the Club World Cup, one of the few trophies he has yet to win.

United were due in Tokyo on Monday after a long flight from London, hoping that the gruelling mid-season trip will not damage their Premier League campaign.

Having already put back August's match against Fulham because of their participation in UEFA Super Cup, the trip here leaves them with two games to make up on their chief rivals.

After a scoreless draw against Tottenham on Saturday, at least United will be buoyed by Chelsea's failure to take advantage in their 1-1 stalemate with West Ham on Sunday.

Even if United return home facing a daunting points deficit in the league, the Scot believes the Club World Cup is worth the trouble.

Having won the Champions League in 1999, United qualified for the inaugural tournament of continental champions in Brazil in early 2000 after controversially pulling out of the FA Cup in order to feature.

But they failed to get past the group stage after being beaten 3-1 by Brazilian side Vasco De Gama and drawing with Mexico's Rayos del Necaxa.

"This is a very difficult tournament, different from what we were used to last time, but hopefully we can handle it," he said before United's departure.

"It's a good opportunity for us to get the team together in a serious competition because no British team has ever won it and it's a big challenge to us."

He said winning the trophy would be important for the club and for the club's record.

"We feel we should have won more in Europe but having won the Intercontinental Cup back in 1999, we were the first British club to do it, and that's a prestigious piece of history for us," he said.

United defeated Brazilian side Palmeiras in Tokyo in December 1999 to win the traditional showdown between European and South American champions.

"You only get there by invitation if you win the Champions League and that's how prestigious it is for us. It's a fantastic tournament to be involved in."

As a seeded side, United go straight into the semi-finals of the seven-team competition on Thursday, where they face Japan's Gamba Osaka, who beat Adelaide United 1-0 on Sunday in a replay of their AFC Champions League final.

Despite being strong favourites to lift the cup, Ferguson expects a stiff test in front of a home crowd in Yokohama.

He admits he has been impressed with the emergence of the Japanese game. "I don't know a lot about Gamba but I do know that Japanese football over the last decade has been improving remarkably," he said.

"We've been to Japan three times and each time they've been very difficult games. They've always been very close games so the improvement is there for everyone to see, the enthusiasm is fantastic in Japan, the crowds are very high and the stadia are fantastic.

"Japan is a great platform. Where we played the Urawa Reds was fantastic, not just the stadium but the facilities for the players to prepare. The gyms for the warm-up were the best I've ever seen. It was really remarkable."

United's main threat to their title push is expected to come from South American champions Liga de Quito of Ecuador, who play Mexican powerhouse Pachuca in their semi-final on Wednesday.

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