Manchester United head into their final Champions League group encounter already assured of top spot and certain to make several changes ahead of Sunday’s trip to face Premier League title rivals Manchester City.
With the visitors to Old Trafford, CFR Cluj, needing a result to stand a chance of making it through to the knockout phase for the first time, though, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is aware of his responsibilities to the competition.
“We'll rest some players, like we did against Galatasaray, but we have to be fair to all the other teams who are trying to get important positions, either in the next stage of the Champions League or the Europa League,” Ferguson said, according to UEFA.com. “In that respect, we'll send out a team we expect can win, but there will be changes.”
United come into the fixture with the Romanian champions on the back of another come-from-behind victory packed with goals. The 4-3 win over Reading was the 14th match in which United have been behind this season. But Ferguson is not letting the result overshadow his side’s shortcomings.
“[The defending at the weekend] was like a Cartoon Cavalcade,” he lamented. “We're getting punished when balls go into the box, but we should be defending far better. Reading did produce some fantastic balls into the box, but we should be expecting better.”
Contrary to Ferguson’s statement last week, Nemanja Vidic is not yet ready for a return against Cluj and, according to the manager, will not feature in the Manchester derby either. Midfielder Anderson will also be missing, along with wingers Antonio Valencia and Nani. Shinji Kagawa has returned to training but is unlikely to feature.
Cluj head to Old Trafford level on points with second placed Galatasaray and needing to better the result that the Turkish side achieves in Braga. Coach Paulo Sergio has no new injury concerns and is likely to field the same side that defeated Braga two weeks ago.
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Smalling, Jones, Buttner
M: Cleverley, Fletcher, Rooney, Giggs
F: Hernandez, Welbeck
D: Pinto, Cadu, Piccolo, Rada
M: Alberto, Muresan
Sougou, Pedro, Camora
Prediction: Cluj have been impressive on their travels in this season’s Champions League, winning three and drawing one, including qualifiers. Against a weakened Manchester United side, doubtless with the Manchester derby firmly in their thoughts, Cluj could pick up a potentially valuable point.
Manchester United 2-2 CFR Cluj
Where to watch: The Champions League Group H kicks-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided with Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.