United’s game away at Marseille tonight, is one of those European aways where the word ‘should’ is often spouted by both fans and media alike.
With nine wins out of ten in Europe on the road- why can’t we be so lethal in the Premiership?- you’d expect Sir Alex’s men to come away from France with all three points.
It goes without saying that despite United’s excellent European away record there are no easy games at this stage of the Champion’s League and now’s not the time to start taking anything for granted. Last season was a case in point as many people- myself included- thought a trip to the Bernabeu was all but assured when the draw for the quarter and semi-finals was made last year.
After a ropey start to their Champion’s League campaign, which saw back-to-back defeats, Marseille won four on the bounce including a win over Chelsea at the Velodrome to guarantee a place in the final 16.
Didier Deschamps’ side are a dangerous outfit who as they proved against Chelsea should not be taken too lightly, the loss of top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac who has three goals in the CL this season- will be a massive blow but it by no means takes away the French side’s chances of taking something from the game.
Deschamps has claimed that a nil-nil draw would be a good result for Marseille tonight and with the away goals rule he’s no doubt got a valid point.
United will be without Anderson, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs and Jonny Evans tonight, as well as Ji-Sung Park, Antonio Valencia and Owen Hargreaves. While the loss of three wide men does limit Sir Alex’s options slightly, there’s no reason to think that with the players still available, he shouldn’t be able to field a very strong team.
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Ones to watch Head to Head
Gabriel Heinze– The second most hated Argentinean at Old Trafford will face United for the first time since his acrimonious departure three years ago. He’s likely to have to deal with Nani and it’s actually a battle I’m looking forward to seeing. Heinze endured himself to the United faithful with his no nonsense tough never-say-die approach. He was even our player of the season in 2005.
However anyone who remembers his performances for United will know that he had fondness for diving in which could occasionally get him and his team into trouble.
Nani could expose both Heinze’s lack of pace and his penchant for going to ground and I expect the Portuguese winger to give the former United hero a torrid evening.
Lucho Gonzalez– The Argentinean play maker is one of Marseille’s most dangerous players and has two goals and an assist in the competition this season. It may well be left to Darren Fletcher or possibly even Michael Carrick to keep an eye on his surging runs from the middle of the park.
Although Lucho is a useful playmaker, he’s not quite in the same league as some of the players United’s midfielders have marshalled this season and I would be surprised if he gets much joy tonight. Although Fletcher’s form has been worrying, he can often rise to the occasion especially when asked to keep someone quiet.
Overall I expect a closely fought game which may start off a little cagey but should hopefully build into an entertaining battle of two sides not afraid to play football. Although Deschamps statement about a nil-nil being a good result means we can expect Marseille to start off very negatively, should Nani, Rooney or whoever get any form of joy and score then the French side will be forced to come out and play which could be exactly what United need.
I think United will go 4-3-3 with Rooney and Nani playing just off Berbatov backed up by a midfield of Fletcher Carrick and Scholes.
I’m going for 3-1 United win although with tricky European aways you can never be sure.
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