Real Madrid have set their sights on Wayne Rooney after being warned that the "bogey man" is out to get them. Spanish paper and Real mouthpiece Marca branded Rooney a "hooligan and a player rolled into one" and a "freckle-faced demon", showing how scared Real are of the Manchester United striker.
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Sir Alex Ferguson dismissed the attack on Rooney but warned his players they face the "acid test" of their ability to be crowned European champions when they face Jose Mourinho's side.
The paper headlined the story "El Coco" (bogey man) and warned that "a barrel packed with gunpowder" was heading for the Bernabeu.
They said: "Wayne Rooney is a football player and hooligan all rolled into one. To look at him, you'd think he was one of the 4,000 British fans on the terraces, yelling and drinking beer and jumping the queue to get in through Gate D.
"But Rooney will run out on to the turf at the Bernabeu and face players who have bones to pick with him. Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo may well relive their encounters with the English bad boy."
But Ferguson swatted away the character assassination.
The Old Trafford club's boss said: "I'm not interested in what a Madrid paper says. Wayne can't speak or read Spanish, can he? So we'll be alright.
"He's a mature player now, he's 27. When players mature, little bits of their game change in terms of consistency.
"His goalscoring has been very consistent. He used to score in snatches, a few goals together, but now he's more consistent.
"He can play in more positions, he has energy, enthusiasm and desire. He's a terrific player."
Ferguson spelled out the task facing his players, up against a side featuring former United star Cristiano Ronaldo.
"The acid test is this match," said Ferguson. "No doubt about that, and we've got to get through it to win the competition."
Ferguson believes the attack-minded nature of both teams means there is no way tonight's game will finish goalless in the Bernabeu.
"It won't be 0-0," said Ferguson. "It definitely won't be. Of course it can live up to expectations.
"Real are a great counter-attacking team, but we have to play our own game and attack, and that can cause some chaos and late drama in our games.
"But we have to balance that with responsibility, in not leaving the door open. That is a responsibility for the players.
"When you play the big teams, like Real Madrid, there's a special significance and there will be here."
Real Madrid vs Manchester United:
Real Madrid Lopez; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao; Alonso, Khedira; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema
Manchester United De Gea; Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Jones, Carrick; Valencia, Rooney, Cleverley; van Persie
Real Madrid vs Manchester United: Key battles
Phil Jones v Cristiano Ronaldo One of the most intriguing battles of the game if, as expected, Sir Alex Ferguson entrusts Jones with the task of man-marking former United star Ronaldo. The Portuguese served notice of his enduring threat with a stunning hat-trick against Sevilla at the weekend, taking his goal tally for Real to 182 in 179 games. United are likely to double-up on Ronaldo, so Jones is set to be given the unenviable job of suppressing Real's biggest dangerman.
Rio Ferdinand v Karim Benzema Ferdinand will not need reminding of the threat the French striker poses - he was one of five United players who surrounded Benzema but failed to stop him scoring an audacious goal from the edge of the area for Lyon in a 1-1 draw in 2008. Although not as prolific a goalscorer as Ronaldo - Benzema has just nine this season - his movement, burst of pace and devastating finishing mark him out as a constant threat.
Robin van Persie v Sergio Ramos RvP will arrive at the Bernabeu as the Premier League's undisputed top striker - with 23 goals this season. Real skipper Ramos conceded the threat posed by the Dutchman when he said: "He's quick, strikes the ball well and is a constant nuisance. We haven't seem him play this well for years." With Van Persie likely to roam wide and drop deep, Ramos will have to guard against being pulled too far out of position.