Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson says his players must handle better their Champions League expectations this season.

Neighbours Manchester City have a tough group for the second ­successive year, facing Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.

And Ferguson is conscious that City could again be pardoned for going out in that company, whereas his own team would have nowhere to hide.

He said: "You would probably prefer our group to City's.

"The only thing you think about is qualifying. They are in a tough group, but it doesn't mean they can't go through. The other teams will be looking at City, thinking their combinations are strong.

"The two that go through that group will deserve to because it's a tight group.

"If we don't go through, we quite rightly will be criticised and ­pilloried for it.

"We went out early last year, but I don't anticipate it this time."