Talk of English clubs dominating the Champions League was premature said Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson on Tuesday on the eve of his side's Last 16 first leg clash with French champions Marseille.
The 69-year-old Scot - who has guided United to two Champions League trophies (1999 and 2008) during his legendary reign - conceded that English clubs were becoming increasingly powerful in the competition which has seen Liverpool also win in 2005.
Until last year's final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich - which Inter won 2-0 - there had been an English club in every final since 2005 and there are four representatives in this edition's last 16.
"It is a little early, at this stage, to speak of English football dominating and an all-English final at Wembley," said Ferguson, who also guided United to the 2009 final where they lost 2-0 to Barcelona.
"But the fact is that in recent years, English clubs have become more and more powerful.
"English clubs have always reached the decisive stages in the past few seasons, and I think that will be the case again this season.
"That proves that the English Premier League is competitive, with great players, which has helped to improve the level of English football."
Ferguson, who made his name as coach of Aberdeen and guided them to the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup trophy, refused to accept that United went into Wednesday's match against France's only winners of Europe's premier club competition as favourites.
"That sort of tag is only of interest to the media and gamblers," said Ferguson.
"The fact is that this season's competition is very open. Marseille are a very athletic side, who have a very good defence and are at home in the first leg where there is a unique atmosphere."
Ferguson was dismissive when asked was there any truth to the stories that he was interested in signing French international duo, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris of Lyon and Marseille's attacking midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.
"They are just rumours!" came the reply.
Valbuena is in the squad for Wednesday's match but unlikely to feature as he has only just recovered from a knee injury.