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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions