Ferguson sets sights on full set of honours

'There will be a final in Romania and we want to be there' says manager ahead of Ajax meeting

Amsterdam

The last time Manchester United played in Europe's least illustrious competition, John Major was Prime Minister and their goals, in a draw against Rotor Volgograd, came from Peter Schmeichel and a 20-year-old Paul Scholes. They lost the first-round tie on away goals.

Last night, as he contemplated the prospect of his side becoming only the fourth to win all three European club competitions, Sir Alex Ferguson's only concern about Scholes was that he might be so buoyed by his comeback that he will re-consider resuming an England career. "Do you really honestly believe that?" was his response to the suggestion that the 37-year-old might do so. "I don't think there's any chance of that. I think his reason for refusing [an England comeback] last time was that [the request] came late in the day. But two years on... to go back again.. I think Paul will be concentrating [on United] if he decides to go on of course."

Ferguson said they had not discussed Scholes going on but it certainly felt rather less than a hypothetical notion, as he spoke. Indeed, the only moment Ferguson seemed lost for words last night was when it came to defining the difference Scholes' return has meant to him. "It's hard to describe it," he said after a remarkably long pause. "It's like Barcelona talking about Xavi in the way we talk about Scholes."

United, likely to be led by Rio Ferdinand tonight, might well have been heading into the Champions League again had Scholes not packed up, and as Ferguson contemplated joining Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus as winners of all three club competitions, he seemed to admit that his squad rotation in the elite competition had been a mistake. "I think that we were depending on our previous form in group stages in the Champions League, we were making changes each year and it was working fine for us – because our home record was so good," he said. "But we threw it away against Basel. That caught us short, to be honest with you."

He said that "there's a final in Romania. I want to be there and the players want to be there" and the only player rested – with Ryan Giggs, Chris Smalling and Dimitar Berbatov unfit to travel – is Patrice Evra, after that high-intensity encounter with Luis Suarez and Liverpool. "I think it was an emotional weekend for him. I think it was the right thing to do [to leave him out," said Ferguson , who also tried to salve the wounds of the titanic collision. "Both [ Liverpool and United] have got great history and rivalry," he said. "Sometimes we lose, sometimes we win, but we both need each other." The Ajax manager Frank de Boer, who sold Suarez to Liverpool, yesterday described him as "a winner... who sometimes does some stupid things."

United were held up at Manchester Airport because Luis Nani and Danny Welbeck forgot their passports. But Wayne Rooney was purposeful, at a stadium where his last club appearance – against Porto in the Amsterdam Tournament six years ago – saw him dismissed for a hand in the face of Pepe. It was his third dismissal in 11 months but last night he could reflect on one yellow card all season. "As a player I feel I've matured on the pitch as a player – maybe cut out some silly bookings I did get in the past," Rooney said. "So I hope that can continue."

Ferguson grinned. "Don't speak too soon," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all