Wednesday is Match day six in the UEFA Champions League, and CFR 1907 Cluj make their first ever visit to Old Trafford with hopes of reaching the last 16 for the first time.
For Sir Alex’s side, the game will be an opportunity to rest key players with the team already winning Group H. An important game on Sunday also beckons for the reds, so the performance and team selection on Wednesday will be chosen with the Manchester derby in mind.
There have been rumours of the long awaited return of Nemanja Vidic in this final Champions League group game. However it’s unlikely, with Fergie telling us that Vidic, “feels he needs another few days’ training”. The manager has confirmed that we will see changes in his United side with certain players being rested, however the Scotsman said that “we’ll play a team that we expect will win”.
On the injury front, United are still without Valencia (hip/thigh) and Kagawana (knee), but both are expected to return 9th December. After picking up a hamstring injury last weekend Anderson misses out, and Nani (hamstring) won’t be expected to be back in the squad until 29th December.
For the opponents, it really is all to play for. The side, nicknamed Feroviarii (that’s railwaymen for the rest of us), are currently 15 points behind Romania’s Liga I leaders Steaua Bucharest, so a historic place in the final 16 would be a dream come true for the team. Cluj have demonstrated real determination in their campaign, being unbeaten on their Champions League travels this season. Whatever the outcome tomorrow night, the Romanian team are guaranteed at least third place and UEFA Europa League qualification. However, if they achieve a better result tomorrow night than Galatasaray who face S.C. Braga, they will qualify for the knockout phase of the premier competition.
CFC Cluj are missing midfielder Bakary Saré, who is out with a broken leg, along with Brazilian striker Ronny. However, manager Paulo Sérgio has Senegalese forward Modou Sougou, who has scored four of the teams eight goals in the Champions League this season, and Portuguese forward Rui Redro, who has scored seven goals in his last six games.
In charge of the game will be Italian referee Daniele Orsato, in what will be his third Champions League game.
Despite being younger than both Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, he has risen up the refereeing ladder. Working in the third tier Italian football in 2002, eight years later he earned his FIFA badge and appointed to work in Serie A. With 14 UEFA games to his name, the Italian match official has featured as a fourth official in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage along with being an assistant referee in the 2010/11 season. He also took charge of the Romanian Cup final this year.
With top spot guaranteed for the reds 2012/13, we’re a world away from where we were last year. Rewind 12 months and the side were far from claiming the top spot of their group, and preparing to face an embarrassing exit from the competition. This year we have seen a stronger Manchester United, with the team only losing its 100% European record in their last outing in a 1-0 defeat to Galatasaray. Win, lose or draw, the pressure is off on Wednesday, as the curtain comes down on another UCL group stage campaign.