Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he taking the FIFA Club World Cup seriously, even though it interrupts United’s bid to strengthen their challenge for the Barclays Premier League.
The Scot takes his side to Japan next weekend to play in the annual tournament for continental champions across the globe.
United won the tournament’s predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup, with victory over Palmeiras in 1999 when it was just a one-off match between the champions of South America and Europe.
Since then the world governing body have reinvented the tournament and moved it to Japan, but it has failed to capture the imagination of the European public.
“I’ll take my strongest team. I think we look at this tournament as a platform for players to excel, to express themselves,” Ferguson said.
“It is a world championship and any player who goes into it will want to play the right way and make an impression.
“To play in a tournament of this stature is wonderful for them.”
One of those players Ferguson is looking to impress is midfielder Paul Scholes, who last week returned to action in the Carling Cup after two months out after knee surgery.
“It is an opportunity for Paul to make his comeback,” added Ferguson.
“He may have played before that but this is an ideal opportunity for him to get games under his belt.
“He is such an important player for us that this is a bonus for us for a player making his comeback.
“Japanese football over the last decade has been improving remarkably and the facilities for the players to prepare, like the gymnasiums to warm up in before the game, are the best I’ve ever seen. It is really remarkable,” said the United boss.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm in Japan, the crowds are very high and the stadia are fantastic.”