Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Fergie keen to avoid more European misery
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson believes recent failures in the Champions League will inspire his side to mount a serious challenge this season.

The 1999 winners have not reached the quarter-finals of the competition since the 2002/2003 season and last year finished bottom of their group after managing to score only three goals.

'I think if you look at our European campaign last year I think it's best written off. It was a poor one,' Ferguson told a news conference ahead of United's opening Group F game at home to Celtic on Wednesday night.

'We did not nearly get to our level of performance and of course that was a lot down to that we did not score goals.

'Hopefully that's behind us and I think the players are eager and keen to do that and make sure that's forgotten. They won't let the fans down this year. We were disappointed last year and that won't happen this year.'

United were unable to score in four of their six group games last season to finish behind Villareal, Benfica and Lille.

Wayne Rooney returns from a domestic suspension to spearhead United's attack on Wednesday against the Scottish champions and Paul Scholes is also expected to start after completing a three-match ban.

Earlier in his career Glasgow-born Ferguson played for Celtic's great rivals, Rangers, which provides a little extra edge to a tie inevitably being billed as a 'Battle of Britain'.

Ferguson said his Scottish roots add some extra emotion to the occasion but he was keen to play down the national rivalry.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, however, said his side are representing Scottish football and keen to make up for last season's painful qualifying round exit to Slovakian side FC Artmedia Bratislava.

'What we are doing is representing Scottish football,' he said. 'Scottish football, thanks to (national coach) Walter Smith, his backroom staff and his players, has had a wee turn-around in the last few months.

'We hope to continue that good work that they have started and there will be a lot of pressure on us because we are the champions of Scotland and people will watch our performance and decide if the Scottish League is good enough.

'We are playing for ourselves, but we are doing it for Scottish football as well.'

United will give late fitness checks to Park Ji-Sung and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar but will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, who serves a one-match ban imposed by Uefa for his reaction to supporters in United's game in Benfica last season.
courtesy of soccernet
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