English clubs will dominate Europe again after blip year, insists Fergie
Alex Ferguson says the dismal performance of the Premier League's leading clubs in this season's Champions League is a temporary blip rather than the first sign of a long-term decline.
With Chelsea and Arsenal suffering defeats against Napoli and AC Milan respectively in their last-16, first-leg ties in Italy, the Premier League could be without a representative in the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since the 1995-96 season should both clubs fail to qualify after next month's return fixtures.
English football's Champions League quartet was halved before Christmas with both Manchester United and Manchester City exiting the competition at the group stage.
United, with Wayne Rooney sidelined with a throat infection, are expected to secure a place in the last 16 of the Europa League tonight by overcoming Ajax at Old Trafford following last Thursday's 2-0 first-leg victory in Amsterdam.
But despite the Manchester clubs' demotion to the Europa League and London clubs' recent Champions League humiliation, Ferguson claims that English football is well placed to bounce back from this season's unsuccessful campaign.
"Success in Europe can sometimes go in cycles," Ferguson said. "Spain had a great cycle about 10 years ago when Valencia, Deportivo la Coruna, Villarreal, Real Madrid and Barcelona were all dominant. We've had a great cycle in the Premier League for eight years with teams getting to semi-finals and finals. I think the English teams will continue to be dominant."
Ferguson added that "it has maybe been a disappointing season" for the Premier League, "but to my mind, it's not definite that we're on the slide."
Ryan Giggs, who missed last week's first leg through injury, could make his 900th senior appearance for United tonight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Manchester United v Ajax,
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