Thursday 22 March 2018

Alex Ferguson: We got it wrong in Europe

Simon Stone

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has conceded he got it wrong in Europe this season.

Instead of coasting through the group stages of the Champions League as usual, United ended up in a do-or-die confrontation with Basel in December which they were unable to conquer.

So, for the first time since 1995, tonight they will take part in a European competition other than the Champions League when they make their Europa League bow against Ajax in Amsterdam.

There are any number of reasons why it has come to this, most obviously an inability to beat Benfica or Basel in any of the four games United faced them in.

However, Ferguson also concedes his normal selection policy proved to be a handicap as well.

"Depending on our previous form in the group stages to make changes was working fine for us because our home record was always so good," he said.

"But we threw it away in our home game against Basel and were unlucky against Benfica.

"That caught us short and we suffered for it.

"Now players are coming back I am sure we can combine the Premier League and Europa League so I would certainly try to play my strongest team in each round now."

Whether than includes Paul Scholes remains to be seen.

The 37-year-old could be the only survivor from that away goals UEFA Cup first round exit to Rotor Volgograd 17 years ago.

So far Scholes has made seven appearances since his stunning retirement U-turn last month.

Already he has made such an impression that he is being talked of as a candidate for England's Euro 2012 squad.

Fabio Capello made a failed bid to lure Scholes back to the international stage prior to the last World Cup and at the weekend, the Italian's likely replacement Harry Redknapp claimed he would love to have Scholes in his squad.

But Ferguson does not feel there is any way the veteran midfielder will abandon an England exile that dates back to the immediate aftermath of Euro 2004, when he tired of being selected out of position by Sven-Goran Eriksson.

"Do you really honestly believe that? I don't think there's any chance," said Ferguson.

"His reason for refusing last time was that it was late in the day and he felt the it was fair for the players who had got them there to be involved.

"To play for England after eight years would be a big step. I think Paul will be concentrating [on United] if he decides to go on of course.

"That is not settled yet. But with the form he is showing at the moment, there is no reason for me to think he couldn't do another season."

Meanwhile, Dutch police say they have arrested 76 Ajax supporters suspected of seeking a confrontation with Manchester United fans before tonight’s clash.

Police said the men were detained a day earlier under heightened security rules imposed by the Amsterdam mayor. Spokesman Ad Smit said the men were found to have a pair of brass knuckles, tear gas, a club "and a large amount of narcotics".

They were held overnight and will face varying fines..

Another 54 supporters of Belgian club Anderlecht, who were also thought to be seeking confrontation with United followers, were detained and sent home.

On Wednesday, 12 people people were arrested for "football-related incidents". One British male was arrested on suspicion of assault.

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