It is one thing knowing Henrik Larsson's game intimately, quite another being able to stop him. That is the warning from Stiliyan Petrov, who renews acquaintance with the former Sweden striker tomorrow as Aston Villa visit Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup.
Petrov and Larsson played together for Celtic under the Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who has been touted as a successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. But the Bulgarian admitted that Larsson, 35 and on loan from Helsingborgs, would still carry an element of surprise if he made his English debut in the tie.
"The manager knows all about Larsson's game, of course, because he was his player for five years," Petrov said. Asked if there was a way to limit Larsson's potential should he make his debut, he added: "Keep him away from the goal. That's the best you can do."
The midfielder has a "very high opinion" of Larsson and described his scoring feats with Celtic and Barcelona as "tremendous". In words that he may regret by 5pm, he suggested it was "great to see him in a Man United shirt" and had no doubt that he could prosper in the Premiership.
"Of course he can," said Petrov. "You can see how many players do well at 30, 32, 33 and if you look after yourself it shouldn't be a problem. It was a similar situation when he went to Barcelona. Everyone was questioning him but he proved them wrong and did well."
Villa's £7m recruit revealed that he and Larsson had spoken during the summer of the possibility of reuniting under O'Neill in Birmingham. "We joked when Martin got the job that maybe Henrik could come over [Larsson had returned to Sweden to play for his first senior club]. But we thought the manager might be angry with us for picking his team."Reuse content