Football: Ferguson guards against complacency factor

The mathematics have got down to the primary school stage. If Manchester United beat Kosice at Old Trafford tonight they will be through to the quarter-finals of the European Cup. If they lose, they will suffer all kinds

of agonies before they meet Juventus in a fortnight's time.

Guy Hodgson reports.

In theory their task is as simple as the sums. Manchester United defeated tonight's opponents 3-0 in Kosice and the Slovakian champions, the first club from their country to make the Champions' League, have not got a point since. They come as potential cannon fodder, but then so did Fenerbahce last season and they ended an unbeaten home record in Europe lasting 40 years.

That night United were lured into a sluggish tempo by the Turks and were caught on the break. Great clubs have come and been conquered at Old Trafford; Fenerbahce were nowhere near as good, yet had stolen a monument of United pride. No match summed up the English champions' European gaucheness better.

Twelve months on and the picture has changed. Alex Ferguson, the United manager, spoke yesterday of English football's growing reputation at both international and club level. "Continental coaches have always feared our spirit and work-rate, now they respect our tactical nous and skill, too." With the only 100 per cent record in the Champions' League, United have every right to that respect.

United's main problem tonight could be a lack of it for their opponents turning into complacency, although Ferguson dismissed the suggestion. "I don't expect that to be a problem at all," he said. "The players have been very focused in all the Champions' League games and I think they will be against Kosice. They know if they win they're through to the next stage and that will be the incentive.

"Fenerbahce was a good lesson for the players because we won't even attempt to play at that tempo. We'll have to work out their tactics and keep possession on occasions but the really important thing is we'll play at our own quick pace. We'll be our usual selves."

There is also the improvement in Kosice to deter assumptions. Their last match, against Juventus, was lost only 3-2 and, as Ferguson suggested, the ability to score twice in Turin should not be disparaged by anybody. In Kosice, they caused United problems for the opening half hour while Jozef Kozlej suggested he will trouble good defenders.

Denis Irwin, who altered the tone of that match with the only goal, is still suffering from the knee ligament problem inflicted on him by Feyenoord's Paul Bosvelt, although yesterday's progress report suggested he will be fit by Christmas. He and Roy Keane are United's only casualties, but Ferguson was in character in refusing to reveal his team.

"What do you think it is, Christmas?" he asked before letting out two snippets. Ronny Johnsen will definitely play - probably be at centre- back - while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will start as substitute and, if all goes to plan, will play the second half.

"We will have to be aware of the counter-attack," Ferguson said. "Against Fenerbahce we hammered at them all night and then lost our discipline with the goal. If we show the same discipline we showed against Feyenoord, particularly in the second half, we should be all right."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried