Romanian champions FC GOtelul Galati are the visitors to Old Trafford in tonight’s Champions League showdown. The European minnows enter the contest sitting at the foot of group C, meaning anything shy of what would be a remarkable 3 points, would eradicate their chances of progressing to the latter stages of Europe’s biggest prize.
After the sides met a fortnight ago, at the Otelul arena, Manchester United will have learned not to underestimate Dorinel Munteanu’s side, after frustrating Sir Alex Ferguson’s men for the best part of 70 minutes. Despite entering the encounter as overwhelming favourites, a changed Man United were made to work for their first 3 points of their Champion’s League campaign. Until conceding a 70th minute penalty, the Romanians defence had been defiant and resistant to the pressure poured on them.
Their well organised defensive structure proved a porous rock that soaked up all United’s pressure, it took a moment of sheer genius from Michael Carrick, who played a delightful chip over the top, perfectly weighted to set Rooney through on goal. United’s first real sight of goal, unselfishly the talismanic Rooney aimed to square the ball to the clinical Hernandez, who was in acres of space in Galati’s box. Rooney’s ball look destined to find the little Mexican, leaving the centre half with little option but to obstruct the ball unfairly with his hand. As blatant a hand ball as you are ever likely to see, was not missed by the European officials, who without hesitation pointed to the spot. Rooney, with 9 goals to his name already this season, coolly stepped up and dispatched the spot kick. United never looked back from there. Despite being reduced to 10 men minutes later, when the skipper, Nemanja Vidic’s return was cut short, after a controversial dismissal, United went on to convincingly claim the 3 points, adding another goal through imperious Rooney. Who netted from the spot for a second time in the game.
At Old Trafford it should surely be a different story, but fighting to stay alive in the competition the Romanian champions won’t go down without a fight. Galati have hit a bit of form since the fiest meeting a fortnight ago, notching up three wins in a row. Defeating title contenders Târgu Mureş twice in the same week, home and away, both encounters finishing 2-1 to Galati. Whilst most recently toppling Gaz Metan Mediaş, at the weekend; star man, Cristian Sârghi getting the winner in a cagey 1-0 affair.
United have had mixed fortunes since the clash two weeks ago; suffering their most humiliating defeat of Sir Alex’s career, when their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City smashed six past them on their own turf. Since that huge psychological blow, Ferguson has managed to raleigh his troops, who are making an impressive recovery from the horror. Winning their last two games, both on the road, and most vitally whilst keeping a clean sheet. Comfortably brushing aside Aldershot in the Carling and overcoming a tough Everton side at Goodison, in Saturday’s midday kick off.
Galati come into the game, with a clean bill of health, with no fresh injury concerns for Munteanu to contend with, it’s all about finding the right formula to keep United out for full 90 minutes, which they almost achieved in the first encounter. It will be a huge challenge for the Romanians considering they are yet to get off the mark in the group, sitting at the bottom of group C with no points to show for their valiant efforts.
For United it is a different picture; with Vidic unavailable after the red he picked up in Romania and Smalling missing through injury, Fergie has decisions to make at the back. With Rafael still a week away from full fitness, Jones is expected to get the nod at right back, whilst Rio Ferdinand and Evans are expected to be paired up at the centre. United also have midfield revelation Tom Cleverley missing, along with the experienced Giggs and Carrick. Giving Fergie a chance to present future stars, Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba with their first European bouts, most likely as substitutes. Ashley Young is still sidelined with a toe injury. Anderson and Nani may feature after being dropped for the Everton game, following their disappointing performances in the horrific derby day defeat.
I expect a comfortable victory for the Red Devils, despite making hard work of their Champions League fixtures this season, on a wider pitch and in front of the United faithful, their sheer quality should blow a weak opposition aside. I’m predicting a 4-0 win for the home side, United’s attacking artillery should be too strong for Galati’s brave back line, presenting the opportunity for plenty of goals at the Romanian end.