Ferguson not expecting nationwide support
© AFP

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson feels the tribal nature of English football will ensure his club do not receive the unqualified backing of home supporters in Saturday's UEFA Champions League final.

Former midfielder Paddy Crerand has previously recounted how members of the public lined the north London streets to cheer the Red Devils when they headed to the stadium for their last European Cup final in the capital, against Benfica in 1968.

From his home in Glasgow, Ferguson was a supporter that night too. However, the United boss does not expect the same affection this weekend when his team tackle Barcelona.

Indeed, there will be large parts of Manchester where he knows animosity is going to be the overriding emotion. "In 1968, everybody was behind United, even in Scotland because of the links with Sir Matt Busby," Ferguson recalled. "I was one of them. It was a fantastic feat.

"To lose most of his team in 1958 (in the Munich air disaster), then rebuild it to win the trophy ten years later was incredible. When Celtic won the European Cup in 1967, I was with the Scotland team in Hong Kong. But I know from my part of Glasgow everybody was behind Celtic because it was an incredible achievement for Jock Stein to build a team of players, all Scottish, from within 20 miles of each other.

"It is a different story with United. We are in a country with a lot of tribalism, so you will never get unilateral support. But that is not a problem for us."

We are in a country with a lot of tribalism, so you will never get unilateral support.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager

It is true to say Ferguson thrives on hostility, when he gets a chance to circle the wagons and set United against the world. So, with the Ryan Giggs saga taking another twist today when Ferguson took exception to a question asked about the veteran Welshman, rather than affecting preparations, it is likely to bring an increased sense of injustice, however misplaced this appears to be.

Providing they suffer no unwanted injuries, Ferguson will be selecting from a clean bill of health on Saturday, which means Giggs is virtually certain to be included. Others will not be so lucky, including four of the players who were eligible to collect a Premier League title medal on Sunday having made the required ten appearances.

"It is not easy picking a team because you are dealing with the human side of the game," said Ferguson. "Players have worked ever so hard for the team all season and it has been a squad game for us anyway.

"Unfortunately there is one person who has to tell them and that is me. It is not an easy job but it has to be done because we want to win the game. They all understand that. I pick the team for the right reasons and I pick the substitutes for the right reasons as well."

Ferguson plots United's future
Even amid the tumult of such a crucial match, Ferguson is still plotting United's future direction, with reports from Spain suggesting David De Gea's signing from Atletico Madrid will be confirmed next week. Ferguson also had to put up with the knowledge Manchester City were revelling in their FA Cup winners' parade last night, which is leading the United manager to start looking ahead before this season has reached its crescendo.

"The only thing that matters at this club is that you win," Ferguson said. "Even then, you don't just sit back and think about this season. We have to carry on. We have a responsibility and expectation to live up to and that will carry on.

"Maybe next season is our biggest challenge. Who knows? But as I have always said Manchester United should accept a challenge. We are good at that. We will accept anything that comes our way."