Lennon reveals United boss is secret weapon in Celtic success

Joe McHugh

NEIL LENNON has revealed the secret role that Alex Ferguson has played in Celtic's Champions League campaign.

Following last season's championship win Lennon received a letter of congratulations from the Manchester United boss with the relationship between the two men flourishing over the last 10 months.

Ferguson played his football on the other side of Glasgow with Rangers before managing East Stirling, St Mirren and Aberdeen but has taken a shine to Lennon as the Irishman experiences the Champions League for the first time as a manager.

"He has been a port of call for me, particularly in the Champions League," Lennon explained about his relationship with the Old Trafford legend. "We were mainly playing on the same nights and he was wishing me luck but also giving me a wee titbit on who we were playing.

"His advice to me was to go with your gut instincts. Managers have to make decisions whether they are the right ones or wrong ones. He said you cannot have a player bigger than the manager, especially at Celtic or Manchester United. We talked about his dark days. I asked about how he got over his defeats. I am more interested in that.

"Winning is winning. What you do when you win is reflect on it for a few hours and then start preparing for the next one.


"If you lose, then it annoys the life out of you. You question yourself. You question your team selection. You have anger with the players.

"I asked him how you get over that. He said 'Deal with it on the day. Deal with the players there and then and move on'.

"To be fair I think he is very good with a lot of managers, not only me. He has helped a lot of people in the game and a lot of that gets missed.

"I am three years into this and it is really demanding. He has had 20-odd years at it. It is simply incredible."

Lennon's confidence in his Celtic squad was shown on Saturday when he made nine changes for the visit to Inverness Caley Thistle and came away with a 3-1 win to go 18 points clear at the top of the SPL.

Juventus tomorrow night will be an entirely different challenge with the eyes of Europe looking in for another special European night at Celtic Park. Despite having to negotiate their way through two qualifying rounds and being placed as fourth seeds at the group stage Celtic remain in the competition that started off with a narrow 2-1 home win over HJK Helsinki in July.


Lennon took on the Celtic job less than three years ago after a 4-0 defeat at St Mirren ended the miserable reign of Tony Mowbray.

The rookie boss has had to learn fast and is relishing the opportunity of tackling the Serie A champions and current leaders for a place in the last eight – and a possible clash with Ferguson at Old Trafford.

"When I took on the job I didn't imagine a game like this," Lennon admitted. "When you consider where we were and the progress we've made.

"What I did think was that if we could get through the qualifiers, we could make inroads in the Champions League with the players we had. Now we don't want to stop at the last 16.

"We've two titanic games against Juventus and anything can happen. We have been focused on our domestic games in recent weeks and that has not been difficult but we're all looking forward to this game now."