Ferguson: United can cope without Ronaldo

MANCHESTER - Alex Ferguson said he is relishing the challenge of watching how Manchester United adapt to life without Cristiano Ronaldo when their Premier League title defence begins at home to Birmingham City on Sunday.

Ferguson insists there will be no hangover from United's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in May and is confident he still has the talent at his disposal to ensure selling Portuguese forward Ronaldo to Real Madrid for a world record 80 million pounds in June does not prove to be a fatal mistake.

Few teams could cope with losing their leading goalscorer for the past two seasons, but Ferguson said he is excited at the young talent emerging at Old Trafford.

"There can't afford to be (a hangover). You just have to move on and it's a new season and a fresh challenge," Ferguson told reporters on Friday.

"We have some good young players here who all want to do well. That gives me great encouragement. We still have a very good young squad. Some of the young players are developing very well and I'm quite happy with what we've got.

"They have the right motivation to achieve and that's the value of having players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville here.

"Probably most of the players expected Cristiano Ronaldo to leave at some point so it wasn't a big shock to them. The problem now is how we progress as a team, in a different shape, different way to when he was here. It's something I'm looking forward to."

Ferguson believes facing newly-promoted Birmingham will be the acid test of whether or not the club was right to prepare for the new campaign with a long trip to the Far East as well as a mini-tournament in Munich.

United are still without long-term injury victims Edwin Van der Sar, Owen Hargreaves and Nemanja Vidic, but could welcome back midfielder Nani after he recovered ahead of schedule from a dislocated shoulder. Keeper Ben Foster (knee), and Rio Ferdinand (back) are all expected to be fit.