United make the journey to CFR Cluj on Tuesday hoping to bounce back after the Spurs defeat and add to the three European points already on the board after the victory over Galatasaray. Cluj, much like we anticipated Basle to be last year, should prove no major obstacle United. However, Ferguson must not rest all his major stars in anticipation or expectation of an easy fixture. This will be Cluj’s Champions League Final and United will underestimate them at their peril.
Jones, Valencia, Vidic and Young are all still out for a good number of weeks yet and whilst Smalling is edging closer to availability this game will probably come a fortnight too early for him.
Lindegaard appears to be in firm grasp of the number one jersey at the moment and will hope that conceding three against Spurs won’t be held against him. Rafael is blessed with no real competition for the right back spot at the moment so appears a certain starter. Left back may see Buttner make his European bow for United as Evra, like everyone else in the squad, needs to know that he’s not irreplacable. In the middle one would assume that even though his lack of pace was brutally exposed by Gareth Bale on Sunday Rio will start and partner Evans at the heart of the defence.
There will be several players feeling that they could do a job in midfield and whilst I begun this article by stating that Ferguson shouldn’t underestimate Cluj it does seem a great opportunity to give the likes of Cleverley, Anderson, Fletcher game time. Carrick and Scholes, Ferguson’s most favoured pairing over recent weeks, so this game may be the opportunity to rest them and to see what the other midfielders can offer. This, obviously, is assuming that Ferguson continues with the 4231 formation.
Out wide one would expect to see Nani continue in the team even though several fans, myself included, have been left exasperated by his recent performances. Yes, he scored against Spurs and, yes, he’s one of our few real flair players but he needs to develop some level of consistency. On the other flank? It could be Rooney, Welbeck, Kagawa or Giggs. Honestly, to predict a team for a fixture like this one is very difficult! Rooney, you’d have to assume though, will start and be challenged with continuing his form from his substitute’s performance.
So difficult, in fact, that one cannot state with any real confidence that Van Persie will start. I’d expect him to but Hernandez and Welbeck may benefit from a start and Ferguson may well try them.
Even though Ferguson has vowed to take the group stage more seriously than he did last year we could expect to see a fringe player or two get a run out and this not to impact too much on what must be seen as a must-win game. To banish the memory of the Spurs fixture it’d be nice to see United turn up and put five or six past Cluj and demonstrate a ruthlessness lacking for much of last season. Realistically though? I think we’ll see United win a slow, physical encounter 2-0 or 3-0.
My Bet a Quid and Win Big Tip
Van Persie to score first in a 6-0 win at 330/1 on WilliamHill
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