Ferguson lauds Celtic's home record

Sir Alex Ferguson reckons Celtic's form at home in the UEFA Champions League means the Glasgow giants have a "terrific chance" of reaching the last 16 for the third straight season.

Manchester United begin their defence of European club football's premier trophy against Villarreal at Old Trafford on Wednesday, the same day that Celtic are at home to Danish side Aalborg in the day's other Group E fixture.

Celtic lost 3-2 at Old Trafford in the group stages two seasons ago, but beat United 1-0 at Parkhead thanks to a free kick from Japanese international playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura.

The Hoops have lost just one of their last nine Champions League group matches at Parkhead and Ferguson, who in the 1960s played for their arch-rivals Rangers, said: "Celtic have a terrific chance - their home record over the last few years gives them a chance, there is no question about that. They are probably in the top four or five clubs in Europe in terms of their home record.

"Anyone going to Celtic Park now is saying 'you've got to beat that atmosphere and the energy they spend in their games'. So there are a lot of plus points for them in that way."

Ferguson, in Glasgow on Sunday to open a new centre for the Harmony Row Youth Club, the Govan team that he started playing football with as a 10-year-old, was upbeat about both the domestic and international future of Scottish football following the national side's FIFA World Cup™ qualifying win over Iceland.

"There's a general feeling, even down south, that Scotland are starting to do better in terms of young players," said Ferguson, who managed his country at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico following the death of Jock Stein.

"Hibs have shown the way in bringing young players through, and they have sold a few on to Celtic and Rangers. That is a judgement from the two biggest clubs in the country that they are doing things right.

"And there were more Scottish players playing in the Champions League last season than English players and that is a great credit to Celtic and Rangers," the former Aberdeen manager added. "Looking at the Scotland side, there are a half-a-dozen who you can say are more than decent players."