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Fletcher says United shooting for Euro top spot

Manchester United have set out their stall to reach the Champions League knockout stage as group winners.

After opening their campaign with a couple of draws, United got themselves back on track by recording successive victories over Romanian minnows Otelul Galati.

It means that victory over Benfica at Old Trafford tomorrow night would mean, at worst, Alex Ferguson's men would require a point from their last-day encounter with Basle to reach the last 16.

However, according to midfielder Darren Fletcher, that conclusion alone would not be satisfactory for the side.

"You do want to finish top," he said. "First and foremost, you look to qualify for the knockout stages but we saw Arsenal finish second last season and end up with Barcelona in the first knockout round.

"Although people say you have to beat these teams if you want to win the competition, it is good to avoid them until later on.

"It also gives you little perks like having the second leg at home. There are a few aspects to topping the group which benefit you in the long run."

After being left out of Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win at Swansea, Fletcher is expected to face the Portuguese giants, who had the better of a draw with United in Lisbon in September.

In fact, their form had been better than United until the last round of matches, when they surprisingly dropped a couple of points at home to Basle, which raised the spectre of three teams finishing level on 11 points. Such a scenario would blow apart Ferguson's theory of 10 being enough.

Victory needs to be achieved therefore, with no United supporter needing reminding that it was a defeat to Benfica in 2005 that sent them tumbling out of the group stage.

Amazingly, the Old Trafford outfit recovered from that blow to go on to reach three finals, a semi-final and a quarter in the five seasons since.


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