Football: Ferguson puts faith in Robson

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The Independent Online
BRYAN ROBSON may reappear in Manchester United's team, along with Paul Ince and Mike Phelan, for the second leg of the first-round Uefa Cup tie against Torpedo in Moscow on 29 September. Alex Ferguson's cry for what he describes, in wry Scottish tones, as 'Englishmen strong and true' may be answered sufficiently strongly for him to field the attacking midfield he craves.

He said: 'Robbo is training well and has every chance of being a bench player on the night. Ince and Phelan, assuming we collect no more injuries, should both be fit and available. Lee Sharpe goes back into training this week but I doubt if he will be ready to play before mid-October and Paul Parker is still some way off. We should have a much stronger hand in Moscow.'

Ferguson spent some time, in the aftermath of Wednesday's disappointing goalless home draw against Torpedo, explaining his thinking behind the team he fielded, which was without two key players, Peter Schmeichel and Ryan Giggs.

His understanding - an impression shared by most - was that he was allowed three 'foreigners', plumping for Hughes, McClair and Kanchelskis, and two 'assimilated' players, Denis Irwin and Clayton Blackmore.

He was worried about the midfield, where he was without the three English internationals and Darren Ferguson, who had an ankle injury, into which Blackmore had to be moved. Had Neil Webb been transferred in the summer, as was expected, one of four 17-year-olds from the youth team would have had to play.

In fact, Uefa, the governing body of European football, explained yesterday that a manager may play any combination of foreign or 'assimilated' players up to five, a ruling that will certainly assist Ferguson's future planning.

Webb enhanced his claim for a return to the Premier League team with two shots on goal in addition to hitting a post while Ferguson was delighted with Danny Wallace's return: 'I've been very happy with his attitude in training and play. He no longer feels he has to justify a big transfer fee and has settled in again. It's like having signed a new player.'

Uefa's intentions, in introducing the regulations to protect native-born players, may have been altruistic but you know what they say about the road to hell.

One reason for United's desperately poor attendance of 19,998, their worst for a European home tie, is the reluctance of the faithful from the now demolished Stretford End to pay pounds 14 for a seat to watch half the reserves when last season they were paying pounds 6 to stand to watch the first team.