Memories of that dismal night in Rome some four months ago undoubtedly still linger among United fans, players, coaching staff…well anyone even remotely connected with the club. Surely the perfect tonic to banish those memories would be to repeat that feat and have another bash at a third consecutive Champions League final. Madrid awaits if we dare to dream and it all starts here.
A trip to Turkey probably wouldn’t have been right up there amongst Sir Alex Ferguson’s most ideal destinations for the opening group game of the European campaign. That said, with Barcelona taking on Inter Milan and Bordeaux facing Juventus over the next couple of days, it could have certainly been a whole lot worse. In all fairness, Besiktas, on paper, looks a somewhat straightforward hurdle to negotiate.
Looking at how the side may shape up, Fergie will surely have one eye firmly on the Manchester derby coming up on Sunday so it would seem likely that he will ring the changes, especially in midfield.
Ben Foster will continue to fill in for Edwin van der Sar but it really is a difficult proposition predicting the rest of the starting line-up. Patrice Evra has played every competitive game thus far and was involved in both of France’s fixtures during the international break. That may see young Fabio deployed at left-back or alternatively John O’Shea could move over from the right allowing one of Wes Brown or Gary Neville to step in.
At centre-back, Nemanja Vidic should partner Rio Ferdinand unless the England man feels any discomfort in the calf area over the next 24 hours which would see him drop to the bench.
Despite the highly impressive victory over top four hopefuls Tottenham on Saturday, the midfield will certainly change from the four that featured at White Hart Lane. Expect Park Ji-Sung to be given the nod on the right (unless Ferguson sees him playing a major role at Old Trafford on the weekend) and one of Nani or Antonio Valencia to start on the other wing.
Darren Fletcher could be given a rest with City in mind so take your pick from Scholes, Giggs, Anderson and Carrick and perhaps Darron Gibson will be given an opportunity to further showcase his abilities.
In an ideal world I’m sure Sir Alex would love to give Wayne Rooney the night off but the England international’s desire to simply play the game of football knows no boundaries and it would be a bold decision to leave him out. Michael Owen will be desperate to get some playing time and this could be the perfect opportunity for him to be utilised.
One thing for sure is that, with wholesale changes or not, Ferguson will send out a side that he believes and expects to be capable of beating Besiktas. With all due respect to the Turkish outfit, any team that the Scot opts to select should be capable of doing a job judging by the squad that have travelled (see below).
In the build-up to the game, Fergie has admitted that United will just have to deal with the intimidating atmosphere that will greet them in Istanbul on Tuesday evening.
“There’s a lot to be admired in that, their fanaticism,” he told the Daily Star.
“You expect that. The stadium is full at 12 o’clock on the day. It’s amazing how they make that noise but you just have to deal with it.
“The Champions League is the priority. It’s a great tournament, with all the best players and teams. So there’s always the two challenges for us – the Premier League and the European Cup.”
Besiktas’ goalkeeper Rustu Recber (remember him) has also provided his two pennies worth regarding the antagonising nature of the home support.
“The level of hostility at the Inonu is unique,” Recber is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
“United have been to Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, but the Besiktas fans are in a league of their own.
“They are the noisiest, the most passionate, and they stay with the team for 90 minutes. The noise is incredible. It will be a new experience even for those United players who think they have seen everything. Our fans can really make it hell.”
The Inonu Stadium will be a cauldron of noise no doubt but when you look at Besiktas’ start to the season (one win from five including a 3-0 defeat in their own derby against Galatasaray), anything but victory will surely go down as a disappointing result. Nihat Kahveci, who you may remember from his days with Villarreal, will spearhead the opposition’s attack but he shouldn’t cause too many problems for Vidic and co.
Squad in full: Ben Foster, Tomasz Kuszczak, Ben Amos, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, John O’Shea, Fabio, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Anderson, Darron Gibson, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Antonio Valencia, Nani, Park Ji-Sung, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov.
Photo credit: EPA
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