Fergie happy to finish top

United will now meet either Atletico or Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Lyon or Sporting Lisbon in the knockout phase that starts in February.

“There are no easy ones,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “You made the point of whether it’s better being second in the group, but we’re expecting a tough game.

“The thing now is the second leg is at home and we’ve got a real chance to go to Old Trafford with a full house and a really good atmosphere to take on anyone in that situation.

“You look at them all and say this one could be difficult, and that one could be difficult.

“We’re in there, and that’s the important thing. We’ve got the track record, we’ve got the players, so let’s go and have a go.”

He added: “It is a test, there is no question. I don’t know exactly how we will cope with it.

“The last time we went to Japan for the 1999 World Championship, it was different. It was one game and we came back and won on the Saturday 5-1 against Everton.

“This time there are two games out there, we are there for 10 or 11 days and how we cope remains to be seen.

“There are only three days to recover for the Boxing Day game against Stoke City away, then it’s Middlesbrough, then the FA Cup, then two (Carling Cup) semi-finals against Chelsea.

“It’s going to be a hectic period for us, but that’s when we’re hopeful our squad can cope with it and we will make changes at the right time.”