Fergie: No Danish fiasco this time
Sir Alex Ferguson has vowed to take UEFA Champions League minnows Aalborg seriously in Tuesday's Group E clash in Denmark after admitting he is still scarred by the memories of Manchester United's embarrassment in Copenhagen two years ago.
European champions United launched the defence of their title with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Villarreal at Old Trafford two weeks ago and must claim three points in the Energi Nord Arena to put their campaign back on track.
But after crashing to a shock 1-0 defeat against FC Copenhagen after fielding an under-strength team in November 2006, United boss Ferguson admits that he will not take any risks against Bruce Rioch's Danish champions.
"I made a mistake when I picked my team in Copenhagen a couple of years ago when we appeared comfortable in the group, but we lost and ended up scrapping to qualify," said Ferguson. "So I will be picking my strongest team this time because it will be a difficult game against Aalborg. Their ground is tighter than what we are used to and their support will be fantastic. It will be a good atmosphere, but I'm confident we can cope with it.
"Aalborg had a fantastic result against Celtic in Glasgow in the last game and we only had a draw against Villarreal. Villarreal maybe got us at a good time, but we are advancing to our best form and we are in a better shape now.
"The players realise how important qualifying from the group stage is and, if we get ourselves to February when the competition really starts, then we have as good a chance as anybody."
Dimitar Berbatov, United's recent signing, has struggled to find his form since arriving from Spurs in September and he continues to search for his first goal in a red shirt. But Ferguson insists that the Bulgarian, who is set to partner Wayne Rooney against Aalborg, is showing signs that he will quickly find his feet at Old Trafford.
"Berbatov had only played about one pre-season game for Spurs before he came to us and he has since had to take part in two tremendously difficult away games with us (at Liverpool and Chelsea)," said Ferguson.
"That's asking a lot for somebody to adjust to at this stature of club, but we saw against Bolton at the weekend just how good he can be here. His movement, ability to lead the line was there for all to see and it's just a question of us getting the best out of him."
Bergkamp and Berbatov
Rioch, Aalborg's Scottish coach, famously signed Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal during his year in charge at Highbury in the mid-1990's and he admits that he sees similarities between Berbatov and Bergkamp.
"It took Dennis seven games to score his first goal at Arsenal," commented Rioch. "£7 million was a big fee in 1995, but we just kept playing him and he broke his duck with two goals against Southampton.
"After that, history shows that he became one of the best players that Arsenal have ever had," Rioch added. "Berbatov is another silky player and he had a great partnership with Robbie Keane at Spurs, but sometimes it takes players time to get going at a new club. If the ball doesn't roll in quickly, it can take a bit of time.
"But Sir Alex doesn't make too many mistakes and I'm sure Berbatov will show his quality once he finds the rhythm to his game."
Aalborg are currently languishing near the foot of the Danish Superliga and Rioch admits that the chances of an upset against United are remote. "If we get a result against United, just listen to the noise in the city afterward. It will be like an earthquake!" said Rioch.