United have a tough midweek away fixture to Romanian outfit Otelul Galati tonight in what has now become a must win Champions League fixture to breath life into our slow-starting European campaign. It comes only 3 days after United walked away from Anfield with a great point after a tough 1-1 draw that Hernandez grabbed with a late headed equaliser. Any United fan who was disappointed with that result needs to take a look at themselves: United were without Vidic/Rooney/Nani/Hernandez and Cleverley for the fixture and to end our losing streak of 3 games with such a defensively minded set up was a testament to the grit and determination that we put in that day. Champions League minnows Otelul Galati might seem feeble opposition on paper, having lost both their opening games in the group, but any midweek fixture in Eastern Europe is tough no matter who the opposition is. Considering we only have 2 points from the opening 2 matches, we find ourselves in a tentative position that only a victory tonight will remedy but with City at home on the weekend, it is impossible to not have one eye on the Premier League. Wayne Rooney was left out of the spotlight at Anfield on Saturday but I anticipate that he will play tonight because of it being an away game. He will be away from the pressures of English crowds and we should all hope for a dazzling display that will get him in the mood for the derby on Sunday. Nani will be vying for a starting role, as well as Valencia and Park, so the guessing games can begin as to who will be starting out wide for United. A full 90 minutes from Giggs and Fletcher almost definitely rules them both out of the fixture tonight and I anticipate that Michael Carrick will be given a starting berth tonight after he has found himself sidelined so far this season. Anderson should start alongside him but I can’t help but feel that the best of Anderson has come when Tom Cleverley is on the pitch. His performances have dipped dramatically since Tom has been injured and he has struggled to find a midfield partner that compliments his game as much as Tom’s did but a good 90 minutes tonight against lesser opposition might be the boost that he needs ahead of Sunday.
Defensively, United looked much better at Anfield than they have in previous weeks. Although Jones was out of his depth in a midfield role, struggling to adapt and be spatially aware of his surroundings, the defence itself put in a good showing, not least from Rio Ferdinand. Rio was assured, composed and well-timed for the overwhelming majority of the game and if it wasn’t for a cheap dive from Adam, United may well have walked away with the spoils of victory from Anfield on Saturday but that is just wishful thinking. He needs a big run of games without injury if he is to reclaim his starting spot but he has been left out of the team tonight, indicating that SAF wants to keep him fresh for City on Sunday. Evans, for me, made me nervous for 90 minutes: why does he always have to try something? Liverpool nearly stole a late winner after he decided to do a Cruyff turn near our corner flag before smacking it straight into a Liverpool player, if it wasn’t for a swift flag from the linesman then Kuyt would of been clean through on goal. He has improved dramatically since last season but he is not the ball playing centre back he is trying to be, he should stick to playing it out simply and efficiently, only then will he considered for a starting place in United’s defence.
The return of captain Nemanja could happen tonight and I really hope it does. How much has United missed him? We haven’t had our iron fist in defence since the opening match of the season where he pulled up with his calf injury. He is the heart and soul of our defence and our young defenders have needed a powerful leader to lead by example at the back. Patrice Evra is still a shadow of his former world-beating self and the defence has not been disciplined enough, being caught out of position on many separate occasions. Will he be ready for City on Sunday? It is a big ask, no doubt, but if there is anybody tough enough in our team to come back in such a daunting fixture then it is Vidic, without a shadow of a doubt. A full 90 minutes tonight will give him the game time ahead of Sunday but SAF might choose that it is too risky and once again field a younger, more inexperienced defence.
Tonight should be the night where United kick their Champions League campaign into a higher gear. The lackadaisical draw against Basel brought to the forefront the complacency shown so far in Europe this season and SAF will be keen to stamp it out. Galati will be buzzing about having United come to their home turf and minnows always surprise in Europe, so an early goal from United will be key if we are to avoid a tough fixture tonight. I anticipate that SAF will field a strong starting 11, it won’t be the full line-up but I believe the return of Rooney and hopefully Vidic will galvanise United back into winning ways. I anticipate that Owen or Welbeck will probably partner Rooney, although as I said Hernandez may well get the nod as it is understandably an important fixture due to previous results, but whoever is on the pitch, United should come out of this with 3 points. I am going to predict a 3-1 result tonight if Vidic isn’t playing and a 3-0 if he is. I have managed to land myself two tickets to the Benfica game at Old Trafford and I hope that United will get 2 victories under their belt before that game comes around.