As the group stage of the Champions League nears its end, Manchester United host Romanian giants CFR Cluj in a game that holds little significance for the Red Devils.
United have already won the group after registering four consecutive wins at the start of their European campaign, but Cluj on the other hand, have all to play for when the visit their daunting opponents.
The domestic champions are currently sitting third in the league standings and because of their inferior head-to-head record, Cluj will require a strong result against United in order to advance to the knock-out phase.
With the Manchester Derby looming large on the horizon, Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to rest most of his first-team players, although the 70-year-old is also facing a midfield-injury-crisis
Anderson (hamstring), Shinji Kagawa (knee), Nani (hamstring) and Antonio Valencia (thigh) all are expected to miss out the clash, whereas, Nemanja Vidic could make surprise return from his knee injury.
CFR manager Paulo Sergio, on the other hand, will be without the services of long-term absentees Bakary Sare (broken leg) and Ronny (ligaments).
Manchester United: Lindegaard; Rafael, Smalling, Jones, Buttner; Giggs, Fletcher, Cleverley, Young; Welbeck, Hernandez
Cluj: Felgueiras-Pinto, Maftei, Cadu, Sepsi-Bastos, Camora, Muresan, Sougou-Pedro, Kapetanos.
Player to Watch Out For: Tom Cleverley
With the Manchester Derby approaching, Tom Cleverley would like to hit a rich streak of form with an impressive display on Wednesday night. With Carrick likely be rested, Cleverley will form the nexus of United’s play against Cluj and will have to form a strong partnership with Darren Fletcher to ensure adequate support for his teammates at both ends of the pitch.
His creativity and pace is bound to trouble Cluj’s midfield and the England international could perhaps help United warm up for the Derby with a comfortable midweek win.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Cluj
Although, United will be without most of their prominent first-team players, it is hard to see them going down at home to a relatively mediocre Cluj side.
The talents and prowess of Cleverley, Hernandez, Young and Welbeck should be sufficient for the Red Devils to claim their fifth European win this season and squash their opponents’ dreams of escaping the group round.
Nonetheless, I still see United conceding an early goal in the first half as the possible backline is relatively weak and frankly, not reliable enough to keep the ball out of the net.
Trivia: Manchester United have conceded the first goal in 14 of their 22 games this season across all competitions (per Goal.com).
Where To Watch Online: Manchester United vs. CFR Cluj850091