WHEN Nicky Law shares midfield space with Victor Wanyama today, he will have to resist the temptation to sidle up and gush into his ear: "I'd pay to watch you play." Such is the Motherwell player's admiration for the Celtic midfielder that he would happily see him in the colours of the club he supports, Manchester United.
Law is in the Old Trafford stands as frequently as his Motherwell commitments allow. Could Wanyama hold his own among the likes of Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in United's central midfield? Law was in no doubt. "He's brilliant, a top player. I've seen him linked with my club, Manchester United, recently – I still go down to Old Trafford as much as possible, whenever I can get there I am there – and I'd love to see Wanyama at United. That's how highly I rate him.
"You saw against Barcelona how much quality he has. I read what the likes of Andres Iniesta said about him. Wanyama's a top player, the best midfielder in Scotland. To go up against a player like that and test yourself is great. Scott Brown is a great player, too. Celtic have great options in midfield, it's probably the strongest part of their team."
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Motherwell do not pay him to applaud opponents, of course. He will be one of those asked to cope with Wanyama and the rest of the Celtic midfield in the match between the top team in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and the side in joint second at Parkhead this afternoon. Wanyama was arguably Celtic's best performer at Easter Road on Saturday but that did not spare him from coming off the field as a loser.
Law assessed his chances of administering another setback with a combination of humour and optimism. "How do you stop him? He's too big for me to stop. He'll be booting me up and down the pitch. You just need to go out there and do your best. Whoever you are up against is top-class, but Wanyama is a stand-out. I'm looking forward to it. Whoever plays in midfield will have a big challenge against a player like that. You just need to do your best and hope you can come out on top on the day."
Motherwell have lost 12 of their last 13 games against Celtic, including all five in which Law has featured since signing from Rotherham in the summer of 2011. "I've been battered pretty much every time," he said. "The closest was at Fir Park last season when we lost 2-1 and Gary Hooper scored late on. We played quite well at Parkhead in one game last year but I've never beaten them.
"But we will go there, give our best and hopefully get a good result. It's a great game to start the New Year. Playing at Parkhead is a game you always look forward to. It will be hard, especially with Celtic coming off the back of a defeat at the weekend, but we will have a gameplan and hopefully we can get a positive result.
"If we give Celtic a 2-0 start like we did on Saturday [when they scored two late goals to earn a home draw against Kilmarnock], it could end up four or five. We can't do that. We have fallen behind a lot this season and, fair play to us, we have come back a lot. But Celtic at Parkhead is a different matter."
One of Saturday's goals was scored by Jamie Murphy, who is expected to make his final appearance for Motherwell today. The forward has agreed a transfer to Sheffield United worth £110,000 plus add-ons and the League One side do not want him to feature against Celtic because of the risk of injury. Motherwell held talks with the player after he trained with them yesterday, with a view to delaying the transfer slightly in order that his goal threat could be at their disposal against the league leaders.
The 23-year-old who has scored 11 times this season and has averaged almost a goal in every four games over seven seasons, was due to be out of contract at the end of the season, which explained why United could succeed with such a low bid. A Sheffield steal, in fact.
"Everybody is delighted for him if it does go through," said Law, who began his own career at Bramall Lane but never held down a regular first-team place before leaving in 2009. "Jamie's goal record is superb and he has been a great servant to the club for 10 or 11 years. It will be an emotional day for Jamie but we wish him the best if he does go.
"I had a brief chat when I heard the news. I'd a great time there – it's a brilliant club with great facilities. Jamie will do well for them if it does go through because he is a great player."