Alex Ferguson has cautioned against Manchester United getting “too cocky” by believing their European job is done just one game into the Champions League.
Ferguson always sets his team a 10-point target for reaching the knock-out phase, believing their form at Old Trafford will account for most of that total.
Yet Paul Scholes’ late winner against Besiktas in Istanbul a fortnight ago means a couple of victories and a draw will do in their three matches at Old Trafford, without even considering trips to CSKA Moscow and tonight’s opponents Wolfsburg.
It is difficult to envisage a scenario in which United will fail in their quest. But Ferguson is anxious for last season’s finalists not to look too far, too quickly.
“It is a great opportunity,” he said.
“We all think the same. If you can get to that 10 points quickly you can change your team and give younger players an opportunity.
“But you have to be careful. You don’t want to be too cocky.
“You have still to win your games – and we have only played one.
“We did get a fantastic result in Turkey but we have to maintain our consistency and concentration in the important matches in front of us.”
Wolfsburg’s victory over CSKA during matchday one has earmarked them as the most obvious threat to United’s quest for group supremacy.
Strikers Edin Dzeko and Grafite certainly are a danger, having scored 71 goals in all competitions between them last season.
“Their two strikers scored 71 goals between them last season. That is an incredible total,” said Ferguson.
“They are both big, powerful lads and we did look at Dzeko.
“He is a very clever player who takes up good positions.
“Wolfsburg haven’t started the season that well but they have got to grips with their game and they are getting winning results.”
Still having emerged from relative obscurity to land one of the most prestigious league titles in Europe, Wolfsburg are not expected to send United spinning to a rare Old Trafford defeat, especially with Wayne Rooney eager to make an impression on his 50th European appearance.
Although there have been moments Rooney has cause to regret, not least his red card for sarcastically applauding referee Kim Milton Nielsen in Villarreal, and there were plenty of occasions when he was upstaged by former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, at no point has the 23-year-old given Ferguson any other belief than he is destined for the top.
The United boss feels Rooney has some work to do before he can be put into the same bracket as Kaka, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But he has no doubts the Merseysider will get there eventually.
“Wayne could easily get to that level,” said Ferguson.
“It was a pretty remarkable feat to get that hat-trick (on his Champions League debut against Fenerbahce) and his progress has never disappointed us at any point since.
“When we signed him as a kid, we thought he would become a really top player. Without question he is going in that direction.
“He is blessed with some ingredients only great footballers have.
“He has a great determination and hunger to win every match and every training session. That will never change.
“Sometimes there is criticism about the amounts footballers get paid. But when you see the effort he puts in, he is worth every penny.
“He plays as if he means it. It is a wonderful thing to have.”