Tomorrow evening affords Manchester United the opportunity to secure the point required to progress through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League and to lay to bed the European nightmare of last season. Braga’s two goal assault on the Old Trafford goals, however, will ensure that United don’t travel to the continent nonchalantly.
De Gea and Lindegaard have both travelled and lay good claim to the ‘keeper’s jersey for a fixture like this – it’s European and on the big scale so De Gea will feel confident yet it’s a cup competition where some players may be given game time, thus resulting in Lindegaard’s potential confidence in selection.
The defence doesn’t appear to be a flexible as Ferguson has tendency to make the goalkeeping position although Chris Smalling does travel. His presence, along with Buttner’s, may allow Ferguson to rest Evra and Ferdinand for the trip. Expect to see Evans and Rafael start. Ferguson recently stated that he wants to win this match as it will allow him to rest Ferdinand in future fixtures like this “The game in Braga will give me a chance to utilise my squad,” said Ferguson. “I’ll be making some changes. If we can get the win it’s better, but we want to make sure we qualify first. If we do, it gives me options to utilise Smalling and Jones. Then we can make sure that Ferdinand is fresh for all these games. I won’t have to worry about playing him Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday.”
Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes did not travel to Portugal so this would seemingly leave open a large (no jokes) hole in midfield that could be filled by Anderson. Ferguson has heaped lavish praise on the portly Brazilian recently and this game could be made for him. The pace will suit him and the relative lack of pressure could also prove to be a telling factor in what I’m predicting to be a barnstorming performance from him. Carrick and Cleverley should battle it out for the remaining spot. Powell has travelled and is a good outside bet but I don’t see Ferguson tinkering to the point of playing such inexperience in the middle. Valencia and Young seem to have the winger spots tied up recently with many laying claim to Young’s performances being the reason that Evra has stepped it up a gear recently – Young offers much in the way of defensive support. Whilst this is undeniably true he does need to work on his final ball and become more economical in the final third.
Whilst I have just written that Ferguson won’t tinker too much I am expecting to see at least one of Hernandez and Welbeck to start – quite possibly both. It’s a great opportunity for both strikers to remind Ferguson of their abilities and potential. Hernandez, for his part, has responded brilliantly this year and I’m delighted to see him hitting the net again.
Braga won’t be a pushover and with Ferguson likely to make a few changes this will be a difficult enough fixture. A score draw or a narrow victory will be very much welcomed and see United return home safe in the knowledge that their progress is secure.
Match Betting with WilliamHill
- 2-2 draw 14/1
- Hernandez to score two or more 8/1
- Anderson to score anytime 7/1
- Anderson to score first in a 3-1 win 300/1
Follow me on Twitter for more United gossip, FUT discussion, Instagram photos of my food and many other thoroughly engaging tweets – @matthew_james7