Ferguson unveils 10-point plan

Alex Ferguson has unveiled the game plan he believes will enable Manchester United to retain the Champions League trophy.

Alex Ferguson has unveiled the game plan he believes will enable Manchester United to retain the Champions League trophy.

Lying in wait first of all in the group stages are Celtic, Spain’s Villarreal and the Danes of Aalborg.

United should progress but Ferguson knows the road ahead could be littered with pitfalls.

“It is a great challenge for us, ” said the United boss. “First of all we have to progress from the group stage and to do that you need 10 points to qualify.

“The tournament really kicks off in February. That is when it gets exciting, the one-off knock-out stages.

“I think we have a squad to challenge the best but you cannot think of yourselves as favourites when you see teams like AC Milan, Barcelona and Juventus – all great names.

“We will make sure we apply ourselves in the right way, then we will have a chance.”

Ferguson insists the Champions League is getting tougher and used Standard Liege as an example.

The Belgians ran Liverpool close and he said: “There is a good standard at this level. Standard Liege were a surprise to me because Belgian football has not been that great for some years now. But it was an excellent performance against Liverpool.”

Celtic chairman John Reid is relishing the challenge of facing the current champions.

Reid has fond memories of the last time they met United at Parkhead as the Glasgow giants sealed a 1-0 victory.

He said: “I am delighted for our fans we have once again drawn the champions of Europe. Last season it was AC Milan, the year before it was Barcelona.

“If we are going to play in Europe – and we are very proud to be Scotland’s representatives – we may as well start with the big ones.

“They don’t come much bigger than Manchester United so we are delighted. We have done very well at home and are proud of our record.

“The last time at home we pipped United at the post but they are European champions and we will not take them for granted.”

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres heads back to his former club Atletico Madrid as they were drawn together along with PSV Eindhoven and Marseille.

Chief executive Rick Parry said: “It’s a challenging group but they are all ’local’ teams and there are no tricky journeys into the unknown.

“I think they have all got different qualities. However we are confident. We always want to do better than the year before (when they were semi-finalists). We have a lot of work to do but we are always optimistic at this stage of the season.”

Chelsea, who lost to United in the final in Moscow, have been paired with Roma, Bordeaux and the Romanians of Cluj.

Club secretary David Bernard said of the latter: “I’m not aware of them at all but any team that reaches the group stages of the Champions League deserves respect so we won’t underestimate them.

“I think the boys are focused on the Champions League. They are completely focused on reaching the final again this year.”

Arsenal face a couple of long trips to Turkey and Ukraine when they play Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev. Porto make up the group.

Spokesman Danny Fiszman said: “One of the big issues for Arsene (Wenger) is the distances we have to travel. They are tough games with very difficult stadia to play in.

“I am sure they will be provide very stiff competition, the results at home will be what will decide this group.”

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