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The defender says that the Red Devils need to improve after struggling in recent seasons in Europe but is aware that the English champions face a tough test in the group stages

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand admits that David Moyes's men are playing "catch-up" in the Champions League after failing to impress in recent seasons.

The Premier League champions last won Europe's elite club competition in 2008 and followed that success by reaching the final in three of the next four seasons.

However, the Red Devils have struggled more recently and have not made it past the round of 16 in the last three seasons, falling to Real Madrid last time out.

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And Ferdinand warns that his side must improve if they are to make an impact on the tournament, ahead of their opening group game against Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford.

"If you don't win it or don't get to the final, you've got to catch up," he told reporters.

"Last year we went out under dubious circumstances, to say the least, but hopefully we can improve.

"We improved last season on the season before last, so hopefully we can improve this year."

United also face Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad in the group stages and Ferdinand is not taking any of his opponents lightly.

"But the Champions League now is so competitive, the teams are so good and the players are so good," he added.

"There's such a desire to get into the later stages of the tournament because the rewards are so high."

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