Posted on September 29, 2008
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson intends to learn from past mistakes and unleash all his big guns on Aalborg on Tuesday night.
It is only two years since Manchester United last came to Denmark to tackle FC Copenhagen in the fourth game of their Champions League group.
With qualification virtually in the bag, Ferguson fielded a weakened team and promptly lost in the Danish capital. United then lost to Celtic in their next match and ultimately scraped into the last 16.
Having drawn their opening game against Villarreal at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, Ferguson knows his defending champions cannot afford another slip-up.
So Aalborg can get ready to face Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov.
“I don’t have any fears about complacency with this side,” said Ferguson.
“But a couple of years ago we made a mistake with the team against Copenhagen because we were in a comfortable position and ended up scrapping to qualify. This time I will play my strongest team.
“The players know how important qualifying is.
“We need to get to February because that is when the tournament really takes off.
“If we get to that stage then we have as good a chance as anyone.”
In their compact little ground, Aalborg intend to ruffle a few United feathers.
The sheer magnitude of the game has come as a surprise to home skipper Thomas Augustinussen, who confirmed he had never seen as many journalists as the throng that came to hear him speak ahead of the game.
It provides the perfect stage for Berbatov to announce his arrival as a United player.
The Bulgarian has hardly had a chance in his three games as a Red Devils since a club record £30.75million switch from Tottenham.
Berbatov is convinced it will not be long before he breaks his duck and Ferguson can already see signs of the 27-year-old’s quality.
“He only played one game for Tottenham before he joined us, followed by two tremendously difficult away games at Liverpool and Chelsea,” observed Ferguson.
“Once the other players understand how good Dimitar is, both in terms of his movement and ability to run the line, we will get the best out of him.
“I saw that in periods on Saturday. He was very influential during a period in the second half.
“His passing, balance and control were fantastic, so I was very satisfied with that.”
Ferguson will make changes from the side which beat Bolton in such controversial circumstances, with one inevitable as skipper Gary Neville has remained at home to rest a thigh strain.
After so long on the sidelines, Ferguson now expects his captain to only be available for one game a week.
The position regarding Owen Hargreaves is less straightforward as the former Bayern Munich man is still troubled by a knee injury which first bothered him before his £18million move from Germany.
“We are trying to manage his situation in a different way,” said Ferguson.
“He has had all the treatment but now and again it still flares up.
“There is nothing we can do about it.
“The specialist says it will go away in time and we hope that is correct because he is a very important player to have.”
In dismissing any suggestion of retirement with his usual declaration that provided he remains healthy and still enjoys the job there is no need to even think about it, Ferguson prepares to meet an old foe in Bruce Rioch, still recalling his fellow countryman’s marvellous achievements at Middlesbrough.
“Bruce must have been disappointed at how things worked out at Arsenal but for me his biggest managerial success was the job he did at Middlesbrough,” said the United boss.
“At the time they were in receivership. I was up there quite a lot trying to buy Gary Pallister and together with Colin Todd, he resurrected a whole club with young players, which was a fabulous achievement.”