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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 17:36 GMT

Sport: Football

United aim for Italian success

Peter Schmeichel: Recovered after a bout of flu

Manchester United are out to break their Italian jinx on Wednesday and take another massive step towards European Cup glory.

United have not lost an away tie all year and have won their last six away games in all competitions. But they have never won in Italy.

United have a 2-0 lead over quarter-final rivals Inter Milan from the first leg and are now prepared for an onslaught in the San Siro.

Manager Alex Ferguson is boosted by goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel's recovery from flu.

Clean sheets

The Danish international went off at half-time during Saturday's victory at Newcastle.

But he is tipped to be fighting fit for Wednesday, and but should he keep a clean sheet, he will rewrite United folklore by overtaking Alec Stepney's club record of 175 shut-outs in all competitions.

The sight of Stepney denying Eusebio from point-blank range in the 1968 European Cup final is a cherished memory in United history.

But 31 years on, Stepney is full of praise for Schmeichel. "There's no doubting what he's done for United," Stepney said.

"The debate on who is the best Old Trafford keeper is difficult to judge. Let's just say he has proved he is the best in his era."

Stam back to best

Schmeichel is hoping Dutch giant Jaap Stam can continue his outstanding form at the heart of United's defence.

Ferguson said: "He is playing exceptionally well.

[ image: Jaap Stam: Dutch master]
Jaap Stam: Dutch master
"I'm very pleased with him. He has presence and his power has to be a factor. It's how he handles Ronaldo on Wednesday that is going to be important."

Stam, who came up against Ronaldo in the World Cup semi-final, expressed nothing but sympathy for the Brazilian striker.

"I feel sorry for him. He's under so much pressure all the time, which culminated at the World Cup," Stam said.

United have tenacious midfielder Nicky Butt back to full fitness, who could replace Paul Scholes alongside Roy Keane.

Ferguson's other option is to retain Scholes in an attacking role in a bid to to score a vital away goal that would leave Inter needing four goals to stand any chance of progressing to the semi-final.

Ronaldo doubt

The absence of Ronaldo at Inter's training session on Monday will give the Italians cause for concern.

[ image: Ronaldo: Fitness still is doubt]
Ronaldo: Fitness still is doubt
The Brazilian striker apparently failed to make training because he was suffering with a headache. But the club insist he will be fit for Wednesday.

Inter midfielder Paulo Sousa has been left out after calling his team badly organised.

"It's not enough to send 11 players onto the pitch and say to them 'play'. No-one knows what the other's doing," he said.

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