| 8.8°C Dublin

Jesus says Devils best of mediocre Premier League

MANCHESTER UNITED set out to seal top spot in Champions League Group C tonight with Benfica coach Jorge Jesus claiming the Red Devils are the exception that proves the rule in a sub-standard Premier League.

What organisers like to think of as the best league in the world does not appeal that much to Jesus, whose side know if they end their own long wait for a win in England they will confirm themselves as top dogs.

"The English league is a good league but compared with Spain, Germany and Italy it is not so good," said Jesus.

"In Spain, Germany and Italy there is a big technical and tactical input in every match.

"They (United) are different. That is the reason why they have won so much. Manchester United have different ideas and a different history. They show that on the pitch.

"They are much stronger technically this season. They keep the ball quite well and in almost every match they have 60pc possession compared with the other team."

In a complicated qualification picture, United will not make it through at all no matter what the outcome against Benfica at Old Trafford if Basel overcome Otelul Galati in the night's other game.

However, should Basel fail in Romania and United claim maximum points -- maintaining an unbeaten home record against Portuguese opposition in the process -- they would secure a more favourable last-16 draw, potentially avoiding Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"You hope to finish top," said manager Alex Ferguson.

"One issue is the teams you might draw if you finish second, although with the quality of the teams, it doesn't make a great difference. The main advantage is knowing the second leg would be at Old Trafford."

United's long injury list is not easing just yet, although Ferguson expects Chris Smalling to have recovered from a foot problem that has kept him out for a month in time to be considered for Saturday's Premier League encounter with Newcastle.

Danny Welbeck cannot be far away from full fitness either, after withdrawing from England duty with a hamstring strain last week, given he was training at Carrington yesterday.

Skipper Nemanja Vidic is definitely out as he serves the final game of a two-match ban, so Ferguson will be thankful if Jonny Evans recovers from his own hamstring niggle, while it is not imagined a "couple of knocks" will be enough to keep Wayne Rooney out.