By Mark Young
Manchester United go into their first match of this season’s Champions League looking for retribution after last season’s massive disappointment. Out by Christmas is not an option this season for Sir Alex Ferguson and co especially as the group is probably as easy if not easier than last season where United failed.
CFR Cluj, Sporting Braga and Wednesday night’s opponents Galatasaray are in what looks like an easy section to qualify from and with Ferguson already suggesting the less experienced members of the squad may have to take a back seat these three teams could well be lambs to the slaughter for a United beast that has been wounded.
Galatasaray are probably the best of the three teams that United will face pre Christmas but at Old Trafford three points and to an extent a convincing performance are necessary. It will be the away game that tests a lot of these players as they are welcomed to hell but that is for another preview.
United beat Wigan 4-0 on Saturday with debut goals from Alex Buttner and Nick Powell and a goal from Paul Scholes on his 700th appearance. The team that started that game is likely to be changed on Wednesday but not for youngsters and the half injured but for the first teamers.
Javier Hernandez nicked his first of the season on Saturday but he may have to deal with being an impact sub as Robin van Persie is expected to start up top and should be licking his lips at the prospect of this Champions League group. Evra may well replace Buttner although the Dutchman seamlessly fit in on Saturday and then it will be an interesting battle for the starting berth against Liverpool on Sunday.
Darren Fletcher has returned to full training, but it would be a huge shock to see him start, a place on the bench may be his best hope. One of Tom Cleverley or Paul Scholes is set to partner Michael Carrick in midfield. Antonio Valencia may return meaning Nani will switch to the left and Shinji Kagawa is likely to resume his role as the advanced midfielder.
Galatasaray also won 4-0 at the weekend away at Antalyaspor and sit at the top of the Turkish League after only dropping points in a thrilling 3-3 draw away at Besiktas and also won the Turkish Super Cup against bitter rivals Fenerbahche to kick off the season. Bulut has been brilliant for them scoring five foals in four games and he is likely to be the main outlet. He is welcomed in attack by Hamit Altintop, Johan Elmander and Milan Baros. The team also have Felipe Melo anchoring the midfield showing that this team do have some European pedigree and an experienced squad that have seen it and done it at group stage level of the Champions League.
United have only kept one clean sheet so far this season so Nemanja Vidic will be vital at the centre of defence on Wednesday. He will be charged with keeping Bulut quiet. The big Serbian has terrible memories of last season as the game that knocked the Red Devils out was also Vidic’s last game of the season after he picked up a season ending victory having only returned on the opening day of the Premier League season away at Everton.
Bulut is on loan at Galtasaray after failing to make an impact in the French league with Toulouse but his pedigree in the Turkish league is well documented having had a rate of about one in two in a five year spell at Trabzonspor. With the form he is in, given a sniff, he will cause problems.
United should walk away from Old Trafford and into Sunday’s clash at Anfield with three Champions League points under their belts. After last season Ferguson has promised no mercy and no let up so on that evidence, a convincing United win is expected.