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Manchester United v CSKA Moscow: Preview

Darren Fletcher is expected to return to a side beset with absentees — to injuries and personal reasons. The manager took time out to shower yet more praise on Fletcher.

“Most people now recognise Darren Fletcher as a big-game player,” said Ferguson. “We have been aware of that for quite a while. Now he is getting an acceptance that he is a very important player for us.

“Our fans see that he is a key player in major games. That has been very important to the lad because it gives him a confidence. He has been missed in some key games recently and yes, it is great to have the boy back.”

He also intends, like all managers, to ensure we qualify to the next stage top of the table. [Video here]

He was doubtful about Rio Ferdinand even making it for Chelsea but defended him. I expressed a bit of concern for Ferdinand; his lack of pace in the City game — as well as against Torres — was worrying. But I also had a nagging feeling that he wasn’t playing at 100%. I think if it’s one week, two weeks or one month, it’s better if Ferguson sits him down and lets him take a break. It will do us better in the long term that way.

Meanwhile Michael Owen believes the Champions League could be the stage that would propel him on to England team reckoning.

“I can influence my chances by playing well and performing in the Champions League has to help. But I don’t go to bed thinking if I will play for England again. I think about playing well for Manchester United. The rest will take care of itself.”

As far as our starting XI goes, Rooney would be out. I saw Berbatov limp out of the Blackburn match, and he would be doubtful, with Park and Giggs definitely out. Owen would be upfront alongside perhaps, Welbeck. Valencia and Nani would be on the wings then with Fletcher certain to return in midfield alongside either Anderson or Carrick. Brown and Evans should be in central defence, Evra on the left, and there is a distinct possibility that Ferguson will plump for Neville at right back.

Prediction: 2-0 to United.