Fergie Gets His Man: Larsson doesn't do guest appearances

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Henrik Larsson enjoys his anonymity and might just have been another face in the crowd in the Parken Stadium on Wednesday watching his beloved Celtic take on FC Copenhagen in the Champions' League, had it not been for the persistence of an equally stubborn Scot.

It is third time lucky for Sir Alex Ferguson in his bid to make the Swede a Manchester United player. Larsson (below) had gone home to Helsingborg, across the water from Copenhagen, to relect on a glorious career with Celtic and Barcelona that ended with the European Cup last May.

Now Larsson could be back in the Champions' League - if United beat Benfica to join Celtic in the last 16 - as one of the most innovative signings for years. Speculation suggested that Fergie was about to splash out £20m on Fernando Torres, but he chose instead someone whose prolific record at Celtic won him the European Golden Boot in 2001.

To paraphrase FC Copenhagen's shirt sponsor, Larsson doesn't do guest appearances, but if he did, they would probably be the best guest appearances in the world. The 35-year-old has not been softened up by semi-retirement with his hometown team. Barcelona were trying to sign him on a similar deal to fill the void left by the injured Samuel Eto'o. But he resisted, just as he turned down Celtic last year, who wanted The Magnificent Seven to come back to the club where his 242 goals in seven seasons made him an idol. Larsson was equally implacable when Ferguson twice tried to lure him from Parkhead.

He is available for 13 games from January before returning to Helsingborg in mid-March. "The length of the contract is perfect," he said. "I probably won't play every match from the start. It feels like a fun thing to contribute at such a late stage in my career. I have no idea how Sir Alex wants to use me."

Thierry Henry hailed Larsson as "better than Ronaldinho" after he came off the bench in the Champions' League final to create two goals that snatched the prize from Arsenal. "Think back," said Ferguson on Friday. "Larsson was the one who won it for Barcelona when he came on."

Stuart Baxter, his manager at Helsingborg, vouches for Larsson's peerless fitness. "I do not think he is a centimetre slower than he was in the Champions' League final," said the Scot. "Henrik is in excellent physical condition. He is a great professional."

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