Wednesday brings with it an Old Trafford return to the Champions League. Manchester United tackle Turkish rivals, Galatasaray, in a match that Sir Alex Ferguson will be desperate to win. A win, to state the almost embarrassingly obvious, would set United up for the rest of the group and begin to put to rest last year’s European demons. Last year United, for reasons known only to Sir Alex, treated the group stages with the same respect that they have the League and early FA Cup in recent years and the young squad was found wanting. This year Ferguson and his legions of followers will demand nothing less than group qualification.
This year the squad has been strengthened with the purchases of England and Germany’s players of the year, a devilish Dane at left back and, seemingly, Paul Scholes MKII, Nick Powell. Kagawa and van Persie, coupled with Fletcher’s impending return and the experience gained last year by the younger players and qualification should come at a relative stroll.
Back to Wednesday’s Anglo-Turkish battle, the goalkeeping position is one that Ferguson seems willing to still experiment with. He’s recently said that both players have made mistakes and leave room for improvement but I’m guessing he’s going to restore de Gea to the goal. Big fixtures need big players and it’s easy for all to see that the pirate bearded Spaniard is a big player in waiting – literally and metaphorically.
Rafael appears a shoe-in at right back and is set to stun many United fans as he edges closer to half a dozen consecutive games sans injury! This aside, it’s been a pleasure to watch him cement his place on the right of defence as he encapsulates the modern day full back – a defender cum winger. On the other flank, despite Buttner’s immaculate debut against Wigan, you’d have to expect Ferguson to restore Patrice Evra. Evra, the defence’s Marmite/Michael Carrick for many fans, will be looking to show his new squad mate exactly what he can do. Ferdinand and Vidic are very likely to start in the middle of defence with any changes there only likely to happen with Ferguson possibly having one eye on the Sunday clash at Anfield.
I’d personally like to see a two man midfield of Carrick and Scholes. These two could offer control and calm behind an attacking foursome of Welbeck, RvP, Valencia and Kagawa. Many, myself included, have questioned Welbeck’s effectiveness out wide left and for this reason I’d like to see him start up top with van Persie behind and Kagawa cutting in from the left. The reality of the matter is that if Welbeck is to start he is likely to be shunted out wide with RvP playing off Kagawa. I’ve gone for Valencia wide right but we could easily see Nani slot in there with Ferguson wanting to expose Galatasray’s inexperience at this level.
As for Galatasaray, led by club legend Faith Terim, they will be bringing with them a few familiar faces in former Liverpool, Arsenal and Bolton players Milan Baros, Emmanuel Eboue and Johan Elmander respectively. They Turkish club who, like United, are chasing their nineteenth domestic title this year and will have fond memories of this fixture as they hold the upper hand in previous meetings.
Match day squad: Lindegaard, De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Keane, Evans, Evra, Buttner, Valencia, Anderson, Powell, Kagawa, Cleverley, Scholes, Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs, Nani, Van Persie, Welbeck, Hernandez.
Predictably, I’m plumping for a United win. However, I don’t see it being a roll over. A safe 2-0, 3-1 win would result in a decent start and leave Ferguson and fans leaving Old Trafford satisfied that last year’s embarrassing assault on Europe is long behind them.
(The Ridiculous) Bet a Quid and Win Big Bet
Vidic to score first and United to win 3-1 235/1
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