ALEX FERGUSON has admitted he is in torment about what to do with Manchester United’s attack against Celtic tonight.
With Wayne Rooney on fire, record signing Dimitar Berbatov easing his way into life at Old Trafford and Carlos Tevez itching for a chance to show he is worth the £30million Ferguson wants to pay to make his signing permanent, the Scot has a major selection dilemma.
Even by not adding Cristiano Ronaldo to the equation, Ferguson has enough to contend with. If the Portugal winger makes it a striking quartet, the options are mind-boggling.
Certainly a below-strength Celtic should be very concerned. Although it seems Ferguson’s mind is churning as well ahead of the Champions League clash in Manchester.
“My torment,” he said, when asked what he was going to do. “It is very difficult trying to gauge whether I can play the three of them together.
“I have been thinking about it for a couple of weeks now. It is possible, with one of them playing in behind.
“It is a very difficult situation because they are all terrific players.”
It is the kind of situation Ferguson has craved since 1999, when Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck fear into the heart of Europe.
At a combined value of around £150million, little wonder Ferguson feels his side is stronger than the team that fought out two highly-charged duels with Celtic in the group stage two years ago.
“The squad is much better,” he said. “We have bought Berbatov, Tevez, Anderson and Nani since then. Plus there is a general improvement in the team, which you can see in the progress we have made over the last two years. It is not easy to win leagues down here but we have done it well.”
Ferguson’s comment was a slap-down to Celtic’s hat-trick of triumphs under Gordon Strachan in Scotland. There is no love lost between the pair, as Ferguson indicated when he questioned what an interrogator had been doing for the last few years as he tried to raise the subject of the ‘close’ relationship the duo, player and manager at Aberdeen and United, had.
Not that Ferguson is expecting an affectionate reception when he returns to his home city in a fortnight.
Proud Glaswegian he may be, but no-one of a Celtic persuasion ever forgets Ferguson is a former Rangers player.
“These games are special,” he said. “Quite apart from trying to get tickets, they give you a challenge. I have friends who would not let me forget easily if we didn’t win. The press up there wouldn’t. It is great.
“I am sure to get my usual great reception at Celtic. Maybe I will stand in the centre-circle this time to get the full applause.”
The traditional rivalry of Ferguson’s home nation and his adopted one will be lost on the cosmopolitan section of the United squad, although the absence of Patrice Evra with a hamstring injury ensures there will be United representation from the Republic of Ireland in John O’Shea.
United edged a five-goal thriller in the previous meeting at Old Trafford, when Shunsuke Nakamura scored a sensational free-kick for Celtic, just as he did in the return clash which proved to be the matchwinner.
Injuries to Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Giorgios Samaras rob the Scottish champions of their striking spearhead but Ferguson still expects an open contest.
“It is England against Scotland,” said Ferguson. “The teams have the same mentality. Celtic will have a go at us. It is in their nature and history. They will be driven on by a fantastic support and we have to cope with it.”
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