Date: 1st November 2011 at 10:08pm
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No longer a guaranteed pick...he'll be there on Wednessday night though.

The Theatre of Dreams hosts the next instalment of our Champions League exploits on Wednesday night, as Otelul Galati, as second place United aim to get one step closer to qualifying for the knockout stages.

It hasn’t been the most convincing of starts in this competition for some so far this term. Two draws in the opening games against Benfica and FC Basel was followed by our first win of this campaign – beating Wednesday’s opponents in game week three in Bucharest by two goals to nil. With Wayne Rooney scoring both goals from the penalty spot, it was a result that lifted the Red Devils into second place, however the performances haven’t set the world alight as we seem to have done in recent years.

A win on match day four could see United go top of the group, why may appease the ever growing negative analysis from certain sections of our fanbase.

Team news

Definitely ruled out for the reds in this game will be Ryan Giggs (hamstring), Ashley Young (toe) and Chris Smalling (foot). Tom Cleverley picked up an ankle injury in the victory at Goodison Park on Saturday and he isn’t available either, although the signs are that he’ll be ok to play on Saturday against Sunderland.

Nemanja Vidic also begins a two match UCL suspension after being red-carded in the first game against Galati.

This will mean boss Sir Alex Ferguson will need to pick yet another central defensive partnership. Injuries and suspensions have affected this area of the side for weeks now, and in my mind we’ve not done too bad in all competitions when you consider this.  Rio Ferdinand will make a start due to Smalling and Vidic’s absence. Ferdinand, just a few days short of his 33rd birthday was left on the bench against Everton and it’s been reported that Ferguson doesn’t consider the England man to be an automatic pick any more.

United will pick a starting XI from: De Gea, Lindegaard, Amos, Jones, Rafael, Fabio, Ferdinand, Evans, Freyes, Cole, Pogba, Valencia, Anderson, Park, Fletcher, Gibson, Nani, Diouf, Hernandez, Owen, Rooney, Berbatov, Welbeck.

Otelul Galati

Defensive midfielder Ioan Filip will be missing for the visitors after injuring his right leg in training on 21st October. Adrian Sălăgeanu is also expected to miss out with a knee problem and Buş has not featured since 2 October because of a left ankle injury.

They’ve lost six of their last 13 competetive games, although beat CS Gaz Metan Mediaş 1-0 at home last Friday, with Sarghi getting the winner after 48 minutes.

Dorinel Munteanu is the boss of the side, and he holds the record number of caps for Romania, playing for them 134 times.

Ref Watch

Zagreb PE teacher Marijo Strahonja makes his Champions League debut as the man in the middle in this one. He has been on the FIFA list since 2005 and has been involved in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup qualifying since 2004/05.

He’s a former futsal referee who’s also played second-division football in Croatia. He’s often worked as a fourth official, referee liaison officer and additional assistant referee, and Strahonja oversaw five matches in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League.

So, it’s one of those ties that doesn’t whet the pallet, but it’s maybe more important to get this victory under our belts than other game week four matches have been in recent years when we’ve been ready to qualify at this stage. A firm and vocal United crowd need to be in force on Wednesday night even if it’s not the guaranteed cruise to victory that you may expect it to be. This game needs a return to the good old traditional way of supporting United…which means that you’re there as a privilege, and in the bad and the good moments, you’re supporting the men in the shirt.  It’s no good waiting for something to happen. Do your bit, and help the players do theirs.

Wherever you’re watching it, get behind your team, and enjoy the game.

Follow me on Twitter: @stevecrab