Football: United bank on youngsters: Glenn Moore considers Alex Ferguson's options for their European tie

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The Independent Online
ALEX FERGUSON never misses an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Scotland, but tomorrow he may be relying on two Englishmen to overcome injury and inexperience and run Manchester United's midfield.

At the centre of the manager's thoughts, as he attempts to construct a team for the opening Champions' League tie with IFK Gothenburg, are Paul Ince and Nicky Butt. Ince, who has become one of the country's leading midfield generals, is carrying a knee injury. Butt, although little known outside Old Trafford, is set for his full first-team debut on the European stage.

The 19-year-old's chance could come as Ferguson struggles to overcome the effects of injuries, suspensions and Uefa restrictions on his team selection. Even with Eric Cantona suspended and Roy Keane injured, Ferguson must omit one of his six non-English players - Mark Hughes, Peter Schmeichel, Andrei Kanchelskis, Denis Irwin, Ryan Giggs and Brian McClair - leaving six places to fill with Englishmen.

United may have one of the country's strongest squads, but with Paul Parker unable to train through injury, there are only five experienced men left to fill them in David May, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Lee Sharpe and Ince.

That means Butt, who did well after coming on as a substitute in the defeat at Leeds on Sunday, is in line to make up the numbers.

'I wanted to see how he handled the situation at Leeds and he did well,' Ferguson said. 'He has a strong personality and good temperament.'

There could be another of Ferguson's FA Youth Cup-winning side included, as Ince is yet to shake off a fresh knee injury suffered on Sunday, but such is his importance that he is expected to play. However, the substitutes' bench will be full of youngsters, as there is no one else following the departure of Bryan Robson, Mike Phelan, Lee Martin and Dion Dublin.

'They will eventually be good players, but have not yet got the experience,' said Ferguson, who may even risk putting Parker on the bench. 'It is an unfortunate situation, but until English players come through the youth system, it will remain a problem.'

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