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Ferguson puts world title first

December 16, 2008 18:09 IST

Alex Ferguson has demanded his Manchester United players leave a lasting legacy by becoming the first British side to win the Club World Cup.

The United manager insisted the potential rewards for travelling to the Far East outweigh the damage it could do his team's chances of retaining their Premier League title.

"The nitty-gritty of it is for us to be world champions," Ferguson told a news conference on Tuesday. "In 30 years time you look back and say 'Manchester United -- world champions.'

"That, to me, is what our club's all about and that's why it's important for us to win it."

United, who arrived in Japan on Monday after drawing with Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, face J-League side Gamba Osaka in Thursday's semi-final in Yokohama.

"It's a big incentive to become world champions," said Ferguson. "You can't win the Premier League in December.

"Yes, it's a little bit of a handicap, but that's what happens when you're successful. I hope we're in Abu Dhabi next year because it means we're successful.

He added: "As far as I'm concerned the incentives outweigh, without any question, whatever happens in the Premier League."

Ferguson's side won the tournament's forerunner, a one-off match between the champions of Europe and South America, with a 1-0 win over Brazil's Palmeiras in 1999.

United were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Argentine side Estudiantes in 1968 when the Intercontinental Cup was played over two legs.

They are overwhelming favourites to win the new-look FIFA competition with Mexico's Pachuca and surprise Libertadores Cup winner LDU of Ecuador meeting in Wednesday's first semi-final.

Ferguson admitted the biggest hurdle facing his players could prove to be jet lag after a 12-hour flight from London followed by two games inside a week in Japan.

"The most difficult part is to change their body clock in such a short space of time," said the Scot, whose side travel to Stoke City on Dec. 26, five days after the Yokohama final.

"We had them up at seven on Sunday morning to make sure they didn't sleep until they got on the plane. We have to give them a proper chance to acclimatise."

United midfielder Darren Fletcher was struggling to keep his eyes open after team doctors ordered the players to stay awake until 2 a.m. before rising early on Tuesday.

"Lack of sleep will affect anyone's performance," he said. "We've just flown in and we've only got a couple of days. It's a case of mind over matter."

Winning the Club World Cup would taste extra sweet for Ferguson after fierce rivals Liverpool lost 1-0 to Sao Paulo in the first tournament under the new format in 2005.

"The media don't take it as seriously as we do," said Ferguson. "It's an extra game for us but the prestige attached to the competition now is greater."

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