Manchester United can virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of Champions League with victory against Turkish champions Bursaspor on Tuesday.
In the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, Man United secured a 1-0 victory thanks to a wonder strike by Nani. The game was a tad dull, not helped by a bitterly cold night, but a win is a win. We were also in the midst of the Wayne Rooney saga leading to a surreal atmosphere inside the stadium, it was very odd indeed. Since that defeat, Bursaspor have played two games hammering Ankaragücü 5-1 and drawing 1-1 with Fenerbahçe. The Turkish club are currently top of Süper Lig and remain unbeaten after ten games.
Team Selection Thoughts
Edwin Van der Sar was preferred at the Mestalla against Valencia, as Sir Alex probably considered the fixture the toughest of the group stages, but I fully expect Tomasz Kuszczak to make his fourth (third Champions League) start of the season, especially considering Ben Amos was preferred in the recent Carling Cup fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
With John O’Shea struggling and Wes Brown out of favour (for whatever reason), Rafael has made a real claim to be the first choice right back since his return to first team action. He was superb against Tottenham Hotspur, dominating Gareth Bale, arguably the inform left winger in Europe. With question marks surrounding his ability to defend taking on Bale was a huge test for the young Brazilian, which he passed with flying colours. He is included in my predicted line up.
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Chris Smalling will make his third start in the Champions League. Smalling has impressed since his arrival, with Sir Alex stating the young defender has adjusted very quickly to life as United player and is now at a stage where he will be allowed game time to earn experience. With Evans missing out, Nemanja Vidic is likely to partner Smalling. Brown could be a decent shout, but I think the big Serbian will be preferred.
Patrice Evra has had a poor start to the current campaign, but he has shown gradual improvement over recent weeks, especially his performance against Bursaspor. We may however see a change at left back with either O’Shea or Fabio given the nod. With a relatively inexperienced back line including Rafael and Smalling, Sir Alex may favour the experience of the Irishman.
Playing five across midfield is common practice for United in away European fixtures. Michael Carrick was excellent against Spurs; his positional play allowed him to make several interceptions and denying Rafael Van der Vaart space, minimizing the influence of the Dutchman. He is fresh and in need of game time so I’d like him to start. With Darron Gibson and Anderson absent, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes are likely to make up the three man midfield. With fixtures against Wolves and Manchester City in the next week Sir Alex may rest one of the established midfielders and award Magnus Eikrem his Manchester United debut. The young Norwegian has a superb passing range and is an exciting prospect. He may not start, but hopefully he will feature at some point.
I’m the not the biggest fan of Park on the wing, however his display against Spurs was easily his best to date. Hopefully his confidence is high as a consequence; I would therefore like him to continue in the role. Nani has been a constant attacking threat this season, with five goals and nine assists to his name already. With fixtures coming thick and fast I’d like Nani allowed a breather allowing Gabriel Obertan to make his second start of the season. Obertan has limited game time this campaign, but I’ve been impressed with his confidence. He has looked more self assured compared to last season, when at times he looked like a deer in headlights.
Federico Macheda played against Bursaspor at Old Trafford, but misses out on Tuesday due to a virus, leaving Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov vying for the lone strikers role. Hernandez has been a breath of fresh air in recent weeks, especially considering the nonsense surrounding Rooney. However, I’m predicting Berbatov will fulfil the role as he was replaced early on Saturday and taking into account his performance against Valencia. The Bulgarian has not scored in five games and could do with a goal.
Predicated team: Kuszczak; Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, O’Shea; Obertan, Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick; Park, Berbatov.
I’m expecting a typical away European performance from the reds tonight – a slow tempo, controlled game. A 2-0 victory for United with goals from Berbatov and Fletcher.
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