Manchester United take on Besiktas tonight in a bid to claim top spot in the group. As it stands, that would mean missing the likes of Barcelona, Bordeaux, Sevilla and Milan for the time being, although a lot can change before the places are set in stone.
United will play a young team tonight, with Darron Gibson confirmed as a starting player. Sir Alex Ferguson has taken a shine to the lad and after the bitter disappointment of World Cup failure, he could do with a bit of cheering up! He’s barely featured this season, making two sub appearances in the league as well as one 90 minute stint in the League Cup, so will surely be up for this. He has a hell of a shot on him and he’s strong, but it’s time now for him to develop other areas of his game, which I suppose can only happen with playing.
Gabriel Obertan might be give a chance from the start in a bid to get him up to speed to replace Nani. Ahead of the Everton game I said the unpopular Portuguese winger needed to be played but after not even making the bench you have to wonder whether his career with United is over. If Diego Forlan can get sold for wearing the wrong studs, then there’s no reason why Nani won’t be shown the exit door. I honestly believe he could have done more with our club, but obviously the manager knows best.
Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda are also likely to get a game, although with Dimitar Berbatov returning from injury and maybe needing a game before the weekend, as well as wanting to give Michael Owen as much time as possible, Welbeck might see himself starting on the right wing with Kiko waiting on the bench.
You’d have to fancy Anderson to partner Gibson after remaining on the bench on Saturday. He put in a good shift against Chelsea all those weeks ago and it would be good to see him given the opportunity to build on this.
After missing out on training, Edwin Van der Sar is in the squad, although Tomasz Kuczczak is likely to start. Despite the manager’s repeated claims that Foster will replace Van der Sar, Ben doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to the first team. Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Gary Neville, John O’Shea and Fabio are all out, meaning we’re likely to see a back four of Rafael – Wes – Vidic – Evra. On the upside, Park Ji-Sung is back in the squad and might get a run out later on.
After the dramatics against CSKA Moscow, clawing back to 3-3 from a losing position of 3-1, it would be nice to get a composed and confident performance out of the lads tonight. Despite the huge injuries, the back four look solid enough, meaning it is up to the rest of the team to go out and play. I want to see Obertan bombing down the left wing with Evra, Anderson driving the ball through the centre of midfield and Gibson having a go from distance. As we’re approaching the busy Christmas period, I really want to see how capable our squad is and just how far the depth goes. Tonight is a real opportunity for the fringe players to stake their claim as a regular, but essentially, nothing is more important than the three points and getting the group wrapped up.
I will be running a live blog for the game so if you show up on the blog around half an hour before kick off I should hopefully be about.
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