Giggs handed the captaincy as United prepare for bumpy ride

The plane carrying United to the Hungarian capital, where they lead 3-0 entering the second leg of their third qualifying-round tie, ran into severe turbulence shortly before landing. No sooner was stability restored than Ferguson emerged, with classic comic timing, from the toilet.

Later, as the United manager stood by the baggage carousel, a young supporter boldly accused him of failing to stand up against the Glazers. Ferguson responded firmly, yet with dignity, reminding his interrogator about the nature of a plc and the need to protect his coaching staff.

The pitch in the Ferenc Puskas Stadium is also expected to be bumpy, perhaps forcing United into a more direct game than usual. Whatever the tactics, Ferguson regards their advantage as secure enough for him to make changes, with Ryan Giggs assuming the captaincy from the rested Roy Keane on his return from a chest infection.

Alan Smith will replace Keane in midfield, with Gabriel Heinze and Wes Brown in for the injured Mikaël Silvestre and John O'Shea at the back. Cristiano Ronaldo could also start instead of Wayne Rooney, who has appeared in all United's fixtures and played 90 minutes for England in Denmark.

While Ferguson's priority is a place in tomorrow' s draw for the group phase, he is also keen for United to maintain the momentum created by three wins. A trio of clean sheets has compounded his satisfaction, as has Edwin van der Sar's influence in goal.

"His personality, presence and experience have shone through," he said of the Dutch recruit from Fulham He has made two or three very good saves. And when the ball goes to his feet, he can chip, drive or hit a 60-yard pass.

"I think he'll improve our chances [of winning trophies]."

Ferguson believes United now have their best defensive unit since Peter Schmeichel's pomp.

An integral member, Gary Neville, said intriguingly that they should not be talking about regaining the European Cup. "We've slipped a noose round our own necks by consistently saying we have to win it. We should concentrate on the Premiership and enjoy Europe like we do the FA Cup."

Debrecen, first-time champions of the Hungarian league, point out that United lost 1-0 here to Zalaegerszeg three years ago, while Videoton (1985) and Ferencvaros (1965) put them out of Europe. But when Attila Supka's side moved this match from their home city, 120 miles away, any chance of a 20-year cycle kicking in probably went with them.

Debrecen (4-4-2; probable): Csernyanseky; Nikolov, Mate, Eger, Szathman; Dombi, Sandor, Vukmir, Halmosi; Bogdanovic, Kereke.

Manchester United (4-3-2-1; probable): Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Heinze; Fletcher, Smith, Scholes; Rooney, Giggs; Van Nistelrooy.

Referee: M Busacca (Switz).

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