The Dugout - Sir Alex: Prem not in decline

Sir Alex Ferguson has told Eurosport-Yahoo! that the disappointing performance of English clubs in the Champions League so far this season is just a "blip".

Manchester United and Arsenal have both reached the knockout stages of the Champions League and will learn their fate in Nyon on Thursday when the draw for the last 16 is made at UEFA headquarters.

However, Chelsea must make do with the Europa League after finishing behind Italian champions Juventus and a stylish Shakhtar Donetsk side in their group, while Manchester City struggled and came in fourth behind Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax.

Only two English clubs managed to reach the knockout stages last season as well and, though Chelsea won the final in Munich, there is a belief that the Barclays Premier League has declined in quality when compared to the rest of the continent.

Ferguson, though, does not agree. He said: "Sometimes you get blips. I don't think it is going to be a persistent thing or a consistent thing. I think that English teams will always be challenging to be in the latter stages of the European Cup.

"Certainly Europe over the past couple of years has been disappointing for the Premier League teams, whereas for quite a few years we were getting three teams into the semi-finals - at least two teams.

"We had an all-Premier League final between ourselves and Chelsea so the Barclays Premier League over the past few years has encouraged our teams to do well in Europe."

In a wide-ranging interview, which you can view in full above, Ferguson also said the implementation of UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations could result in a fairer level of competition at the continental level.

"If it does apply itself the way that it is laid out then it will affect everyone in Europe, there is no question about that, and possibly to a better equality," he said.

"The way UEFA have the strength is that you have to be invited into the Champions League - you don't win the right to go into the Champions League, you have to be invited. If it does apply itself then it may improve the quality of the leagues."

Ferguson also discussed the rise of the Bundesliga, Lionel Messi's record feat in 2012 and the qualities Pep Guardiola has that make the former Barcelona boss the most in-demand coach in world football.

Sir Alex Ferguson was speaking to Yahoo!'s 'The Dugout' through its partnership with the League Managers Association