Ferguson driven on by bitter memories

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The Independent Online

For Sir Alex Ferguson and his senior professional, the towering Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, the equation is simple. When it comes to Manchester United atoning for last season's miserable showing in the group stage of the Champions' League, no respite equals no repeat.

The bitter memory of finishing last in what looked a less than daunting group a year ago is driving United's campaign. So there will be no resting of key personnel or experimenting with fringe players in the next Group F match, in Copenhagen on 1 November, even though one point from the final three games will guarantee their place in the knock-out phase.

A hasty pre-match adjustment after Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs were incapacitated meant United took up only six of their allotted seven substitute places for Tuesday's 3-0 defeat of the Danish champions, hinting at a lack of depth in Ferguson's squad. But it is for reasons of continuity, rather than any shortfall in resources, that the Scot will aim to send out what he described as "the strongest team possible".

Ferguson knows that a packed Parken Stadium will be anything but a comfort zone. Their opponents are effectively out of the running to reach the next round, but as the United manager cautioned, they still have a chance of qualifying for the Uefa Cup by avoiding bottom place. That thought will probably militate against his giving the likes of his deputy keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak, valuable experience.

Van der Sar, meanwhile, noted that it is not in United's make-up to play safe in Copenhagen. They have a 100 per cent group record, with clean sheets in the last two matches, and the Ferguson way is to keep building on that record. "We need only a point in Denmark but we won't be going just to get a draw, that's for sure," the 35-year-old said. "The only thing on our minds is winning and there's no reason for that to change."

Ferguson, further heartened by another strong, albeit goal-free, performance by Wayne Rooney, who thrived on the responsibility of the captaincy, may be able to call on a trio of seasoned defenders when United receive Liverpool on Sunday. Gary Neville (calf) and Gabriel Heinze (hamstring) are ready to return after injury.

Ferdinand, who cricked his neck during the warm-up, will almost certainly replace Wes Brown if fit, while Giggs is expected to figure after feeling unwell on Tuesday.

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