Strachan steels Celtic for 'scary' United

Gordon Strachan has described the task awaiting his Celtic players against Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday as "scary". The Champions of England and Scotland meet at Old Trafford in a game Celtic dare not lose if they are to progress to the knockout stages.

Celtic have a dreadful away record in the Champions League and have not won outside Glasgow in the last 18 attempts. They face a United side which is running into form after a slow start to the season and Strachan admitted his side faced a mammoth test against the current champions of Europe.

"I don't think United were champions when we faced them two seasons ago," said Strachan, who spent five years at Old Trafford during his playing career. "But they are English champions now and European champions while their younger players have matured. They have two years more experience.

"The more you think about it the scarier it gets."

Despite their awful Champions League away record, Strachan is confident his players will not let down their fans and is backing them to cause Sir Alex Ferguson's side problems.

Celtic were held to a draw by Aalborg in their opening group game before suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat to Villarreal in Spain. Another defeat at Old Trafford will leave them with a mountain to climb to qualify.

Yet Strachan believes his players can rise to the occasion.

"You have to try and face United with ability, pace, strength, height and character," he said. "They are the champions of England and the champions of Europe. That tells you that they are the best team in Europe with some of the best players in the world.

"My players know what's coming, but they're looking forward to the challenge,"he added.  "A lot of them were here two years ago and know what to expect. They enjoyed the experience. But you can only enjoy the experience if you have performed well and you're happy with you're contribution.

"If you look at the performance we have given against good sides then I think it's adequate. We're hoping for the same against United.

"I think we performed against Villarreal and we're going to try and perform against United. If I get the type of performance I got from my players against Villarreal then I wouldn't be upset."

Shaun Maloney, who is in his second spell at Celtic, is one of the survivors from the side which lost 3-2 on the club's last trip to Old Trafford in September 2006.

Something special
Maloney admitted it would require "something extraordinary" if Celtic were to return to Scotland with anything.

"Since winning the Champions League in May, United have obviously signed Dimitar Berbatov. So you'd have to say that they are stronger than when they won the competition," said Maloney. "They will be there or there abouts again this season. You'd be surprised if they weren't. If we're going to get anything from the game then someone is going to have to do something really extraordinary."

Maloney insisted that Celtic did not have a mental block - despite their dreadful away record.

"This run has been going on for a while," added Maloney. "A lot of the players with us now weren't here when the run started. It's not a mental block playing away from home."

Midfielder Marc Crosas did not travel with Celtic's squad after suffering an injury in Saturday's win at Inverness.

Strikers Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Georgios Samaras and Chris Killen are out and there are doubts over centreback Gary Caldwell.