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ALEX Ferguson has backed his underfire defensive duo of Ronny Johnsen and Jaap Stam ahead of tonight's Champions' League qualifier against LKS Lodz.

The Manchester United manager had no hesitation in naming the pair at the heart of his defence for the first leg at Old Trafford, despite their poor showing against Arsenal in Sunday's Charity Shield.

In particular, record pounds 10.75million signing Stam looked off the pace, but Ferguson has no doubts that the pair will click given time.

"It's a new team and Stam and Johnsen do not know each other," he said. "They've played one game on Sunday and half a game against Brondby together - that's all."

Meanwhile, Celtic head coach Jozef Venglos reckons his side can overcome the money-dominated build-up and show their rich talent in tonight's European Champions' League qualifier against Croatia Zagreb at Parkhead.

A players dispute over win bonuses has culminated in the entire pool of pounds 280,000 bing donated to a Glasgow hospital unit for terminally ill children, win lose or draw against Zagreb.

The dispute has overshadowed the club's biggest match for a decade but Venglos stresses his players remain focused on what needs to be done at Parkhead tonight against the side Newcastle defeated last term to reach the same Champions' League stage.

He said: "We have top professional players, I am sure they will play tonight with a good spirit and determination."

"In anyone's language that tells you they need time to gel.

"I remember Bruce and Pallister when they first started with their partnership, I was ready for jumping off that stand.

"It took time, but they became the best defensive partnership this club has ever had."

United are expected to stroll past the Polish champions into the group stages, but in his 25 years as a manager Ferguson has learned not to underestimate anyone.

He admits that he has not been able to do that much homework on the Poles and he is concerned about playing such an important tie before the Premiership season has even started. …