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Chelsea out to maul Black Cats

Chelsea 7 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Sep 14, 2006

Ferguson rues loss of key midfielders

Sir Alex Ferguson was today counting the cost of a pulsating first competitive encounter with Celtic.

His Manchester United side kicked off their Champions League campaign with a thrilling 3-2 victory at Old Trafford last night.

But the United manager saw Ryan Giggs limp off with a hamstring injury which will keep him out of action for four weeks.

That came hard on the heels of the news that midfielder Ji-sung Park was due to undergo an ankle operation today which will sideline him for three months.

It leaves Ferguson desperately short in the midfield area, despite Paul Scholes returning against Celtic with a performance which brought praise from his manager.

Ferguson said: 'The injuries are a blow - but for me, Scholes was the man of the match. He is just fantastic, and his passing won us the game.

'Wayne Rooney showed he needed a game, but Scholes at 31 has phenomenal composure and passing awareness.'

Ferguson also praised striker Louis Saha, who scored twice - once from the penalty spot after Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc was adjudged to have brought down Giggs.

The United boss said: 'Louis Saha could have beaten the scoring record in Europe. He was fantastic.

'We have a lot of teams who come here with five at the back - but at least Celtic had a positive nature to them.

'Having said that, we could have scored 10. We had some slack finishing, and Artur Boruc made some fantastic saves.'

The Scots shocked United by taking the lead through Dutch striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink after a defensive lapse of concentration by Rio Ferdinand.

Shunsuke Nakamura also equalised from a free-kick, before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored his first European goal for three years to clinch the points for United.

Ferguson, however, refused to write off Celtic's chances of reaching the knockout phase - insisting that opponents will struggle to overcome Gordon Strachan's side at home.

Ferguson added: 'People will be surprised with them. I don't think Celtic will lie down. The spirit of the game was fantastic. I wish everybody would bring 6,000 fans down here with them. It's a better atmosphere, and there was a good edge to the game.

'At Celtic Park there is always a fantastic atmosphere. In a cauldron like that, their fans can make things happen.'

Ferguson, however, is first looking forward to a spot of revenge against Benfica later this month - the Portuguese having wrecked United's Champions League hopes last season.

'Against Benfica it will be a different bloody result next time - believe me about that,' he said.