MANCHESTER UNITED may have missed out on Patrick Kluivert and Dwight Yorke, but they have still unleashed a new attacking force this season.
Ryan Giggs was splendid in his new free role for United as he ripped through the LKS Lodz defence in the first leg of the Champions' League second qualifying round at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Alex Ferguson, the United manager, has encouraged Giggs to cut in more from his left wing, and he did that to devastating effect, scoring the first goal in a 2-0 win. His team-mate Nicky Butt was not surprised by Giggs' scintillating show. "I thought he was exceptional, but then everyone knows how good a footballer he is," he said.
Giggs played down his new roving role, which seems sure to take off when Jesper Blomqvist recovers from a foot injury and replaces him on the left.
The man himself, though, is taking nothing for granted. "I'm not too sure, you need to ask the manager about that. Wherever I play I enjoy it and I just do my best," Giggs said.
One thing Giggs is sure about is that United are in an excellent position to reach the Champions' League proper, especially after Andy Cole's goal nine minutes from time.
"We've got to be sensible when we go out there, but if we get an away goal then they will need to score four," he said. "I must say we are confident about our chances after keeping the clean sheet. That was the main thing."
Jozef Venglos, the Celtic head coach, spoke yesterday of the moment he trusted his instinct against Croatia Zagreb on Wednesday night and realised that Darren Jackson was the man for the occasion.
The Scotland forward was left on the bench for the first 45 minutes of their European Champions' League qualifying round first leg tie at Parkhead. Six minutes after the restart, however, Jackson seized on to a loose ball to show his own instincts are for goalscoring.
"I could see that Harald Brattbakk was trying hard, but I had the feeling I had to do something," Venglos said. "We needed to get the game going in our favour so I chose Darren and it was OK for us."
Venglos was keen to share the plaudits around his players for the 1-0 win that gives Celtic a more than reasonable chance of joining Europe's elite.
"It was still the spirit and determination of our teamwork that won it for us - you cannot say that anybody played badly," he said. "We showed our qualities and all the players proved their desire to play for the club."
The visitors believed, and had ample justification for doing so, that they merited at least a draw for their assured display and they could easily overturn their deficit in two weeks' time.
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