So, after a jaunt to Anfield, United now up sticks to Eastern Europe where they play SC Otelul Galati an, up until now, unknown quantity.
This should, on paper, prove to be a little bit of a walkover for United but, as we all know, Eastern Europe can have a strange impact on the biggest and best of what Europe has to offer. However, when one looks at the contrast between the two clubs, the gulf couldn’t be bigger. Apparently, Galati’s average annual wage is £40,000. This is, considerably, less than many United players earn in a week. They’ve only been a club since 1964 and have, in their very short history, won only one major trophy.
United must win at the National Arena. It’s that simple! The last time that United failed to win their opening two Champions League openers was 1998/99 and we all saw what happened there. However, the 3-3 home draw they had then was against Barcelona, not Basle! It looks like they’ll be going into a must win game against a team Fergie admits he’s ‘never heard of’ without Rio Ferdinand who has been left behind. Nemanja Vidic, however, does travel and will probably partner the ever improving Evans in defence. Evra, fresh from his controversial match up Suarez and Liverpool should continue at left back. At right back it could be any of Valencia, Jones, Smalling or the recently capped by Brasil, Fabio.
In goal I’d expect de Gea to continue especially after his stunning performance at Anfield. However, Ferguson may decide to use this game to give Lindegaard some more game time much like he did in Benfica.
The midfield, again, looks great going forward and each and every midfielder at the club will be itching to play in Romania as they’ll probably see an opportunity to get themselves on the score sheet. Anderson, Young and Nani really could run riot here. Young must find some of the form he was demonstrating earlier in the year and I’d like to see him and Nani (or Park) switch wings often in order to confuse the home defence. Cleverley is still out and we’re looking at either Giggs, Carrick or Fletcher partnering Anderson in the middle of the park.
Up front Rooney will more than likely start after being ‘rested’ at Anfield and, again, should enjoy playing against this opposition. Who’ll partner him is an interesting debate as Welbeck played admirably leading the line, alone, on the weekend. Hernandez, obviously, scored and Berbatov is due a run out any time soon!
The opposition’s home form has been, quite simply, dire. They’ve only managed to win one of their last five home matches and have mustered only two wins in seven home matches this season. United need to rediscover their 8-2 form. For me, that’s why Ferguson has to play as close to a ‘first team’ as possible. I really want to see United open up in this one and send a warning message out to the rest of Europe. United are in Europe’s elite but need to remind the rest of Europe that they actually are.
My prediction? A 4-1 away win with Rooney grabbing himself a hat-trick. Odds on this? A very tight and rubbish 30-1 maximum. Hardly worth a punt, even though I’m bound to be right!