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Manchester United's pace can unsettle Celtic
September 12, 2006 10:20 IST
Firmly drawing a line under last season's Champions League flops, Manchester United and Celtic will seek a flying start when they meet in an all-British Group F tie at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
United had a disastrous European campaign last season in which they won just one of six group games and failed to score in four.
Celtic did not even make the group stage, humbled in the second qualifying round by Artmedia Bratislava.
"In four games against Lille and Villarreal, we never scored, but it will be different this year I can assure you," United manager Alex Ferguson said.
United faced Celtic's Old Firm rivals Rangers in the competition in 2003, winning both ties in the group stage.
"What you've got to do with games like this is get rid of the Scotland-England rivalry because that only makes it harder. It's easy to get caught up in the emotion if you're not careful because games like this don't come around very often," Ferguson said.
Adding spice to their first competitive meeting with Celtic is the past history between rival Scottish managers Alex Ferguson and Gordon Strachan.
"Who would want a crap player like you?" was Ferguson's comment to his fellow Scot when Strachan left Aberdeen, according to the Celtic manager's autobiography.
Ferguson's own biography was no less frank, with the United boss describing Strachan as someone who "could not be trusted an inch."
United will have England striker Wayne Rooney champing at the bit after his enforced three-week absence following a three-match ban for his sending-off in a pre-season tournament.
United have hardly missed his presence, though, a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday making it fours league wins from four and maintaining their position at the top of the Premier League.
Midfielder Paul Scholes is also available again after serving his three-match ban.
Strachan is expecting a night of tense defending at Old Trafford.
"The one certainty about United is that they have pace everywhere and that is something we will have to address specifically," Strachan said.
Celtic will be forced into a counter-attacking role and Strachan may rue the loss of Bulgaria's Stilian Petrov, now with Aston Villa in England.
Former Everton central midfielder Thomas Gravesen's arrival from Real Madrid as a numerical replacement should, however, add steel to the defence.
Up front, the nippy Kenny Miller, who scored Scotland's winner in their 2-1 win in Lithuania in Euro 2008 qualifying last week, may be the better bet for breaching the United defence rather than Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink despite the Dutchman's two goals in two games for Celtic.
Manchester United: 1-Edwin van der Sar; 2-Gary Neville, 6-Wes Brown, 5-Rio Ferdinand, 27-Mikael Silvestre; 22-John O'Shea, 16-Michael Carrick, 11-Ryan Giggs, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo; 8-Wayne Rooney, 9-Louis Saha
Celtic: 1-Artur Boruc; 12-Mark Wilson, 5-Gary Caldwell, 44-Stephen McManus, 3-Lee Naylor; 25-Shunsuke Nakamura, 18-Neil Lennon, 16-Thomas Gravesen, 46-Aiden McGeady; 9-Kenny Miller, 10-Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink
Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)
(Additional reporting by Kenny MacDonald)