By Richard Clarke

Kolo Toure believes that Manchester United have all the pressure on their shoulders ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League Semi-Final first leg.

The Ivorian says his Arsenal side can “play free” at Old Trafford because Sir Alex Ferguson’s team are not only the reigning champions but favourites to lift the trophy again this year. The centre back also argues that football without shackles will be Arsène Wenger’s best tactic on the night.

“There is more pressure on them because they are the team to beat,” he said.

“They are the ones who won it last season but for us we are going there to do the best we can, playing free and passing the ball. We know when we play football against Man United, they struggle a lot.

“They are a really good team going forward but at the back they have conceded a few goals, like us. We have the same type of team - we both like to play but sometimes you can be caught out at the back. I think the team that will win will be the one that defends the best.

“A clean sheet in the first leg would be fantastic but they are a really strong team and they can score at any time. But we will go there and give 100 per cent. If we can win, fantastic, if we come away with a draw, then it will be really good. It’s going to be a really big fight.”

Toure is one of only three survivors from the starting XI in the Final three years ago in Paris when Arsenal were denied by two goals from Barcelona in the last 14 minutes. The 28-year-old feels Wenger has found replacements since then and turned his team into this season’s surprise package.

“The Champions League is a massive trophy for us,” said Toure. “We have never won it and we now have the chance. We will go for it - we are not scared.

“At the start of this season, nobody expected us to be where we are. We just need to play free, give 100 per cent and see where we end up.

“It’s true that we lost a player like Thierry Henry, which is difficult, but Adebayor is playing really well. We lost a player like Robert Pires but we have Samir Nasri. All those players have been replaced. I think the good thing about this team is that we have a lot of young players who want to show they have the quality. I remember a team like Ajax - nobody was expecting them to win but they won and had a really young team as well. I think we can do that.

“We have been together for a few years now and have made a lot of mistakes. We are going to learn from those mistakes and we hope not to make any more.”

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27 Apr 2009