Celtic FC full-back Mark Wilson insists the Scottish champions are excited rather than intimidated by the prospect of locking horns with their English counterparts Manchester United FC at a buzzing Celtic Park.
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Celtic FC full-back Mark Wilson insists the Scottish champions are relishing the role of underdog in Wednesday's Group E encounter with English counterparts Manchester United FC.
They may be perennial challengers for domestic honours but competing in Europe's élite club tournament is an altogether different test for Gordon Strachan's team. While Celtic have registered seven straight victories in the Scottish Premier League, their form in the UEFA Champions League, with a point from three outings, is less convincing. Wilson, though, is far from intimidated by the prospect of facing the holders. "Obviously United have the [Cristiano] Ronaldos and the [Wayne] Rooneys, but that doesn't scare us – it excites us," said the 24-year-old former Dundee United FC defender.
Celtic resisted for 30 minutes at Old Trafford a fortnight ago before succumbing to a 3-0 defeat, yet Wilson is adamant that reverse has not dented their belief as they approach the home leg of the double-header. "Our confidence is fantastic just now and our form has been great," he added. "The fact is most teams struggle away to Manchester United. But at home, when you go out there and have the crowd behind you, it makes an unbelievable difference. You feel you have the whole of the city on your side and that you can do things that normally you might not attempt."
Manchester United will be without experienced heads in Glasgow, such as goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who will be rested, Wes Brown and captain Gary Neville. The opposition, meanwhile, are deliberately playing down their chances of an upset, yet United's Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher stresses that his team will show Celtic maximum respect. "I know many of the Celtic players from the national team and I am certain they will believe they can win," the 24-year-old said. "I'm taking all their pre-match talk with a pinch of salt. With Scotland, we have gone to France and won – twice – so you can't tell me they don't believe they can do it. Celtic's record at home is outstanding. They're building us up and they'll want to take a scalp so we won't underestimate them. But we have experienced this kind of situation before and we have match-winners in our team."
'A special place'
Fletcher, who recently signed a four-year contract extension, has been a regular in Sir Alex Ferguson's side this season. Now he cannot wait to represent the Premier League titleholders at the home of the club he supported as a boy. "Personally, it's great to be back in Scotland and here to do a job with Manchester United," he said. "I'm really looking forward to the match. Celtic Park is a special place with a special atmosphere. We'll have to do our best to control it."