The final game in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League is almost upon us and we need one point to finish top of the group. With qualification to the second round already assured, the pressure will surely be off the Red Devils as they make their way to Germany to face Bundesliga champions, Vfl Wolfsburg.
Wolfsburg are a team packed with immensely talented players — most familiar are Edin Dzeko and Grafite, the highest scoring strike partnership in German footballing history.
Most of the headlines in the previous meeting between the pair centred on these two but, in my opinion, the biggest danger to United is Zvjezdan Misimovic, the Bosnian playmaker. He pulls the strings in this Wolfsburg team and last season came away with 23 assists in 36 games, not to mention the 6 goals. This season he has managed 8 assists and 9 goals during the 22 games started.
Former Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins will be unavailable as he has a shin injury that is expected to keep him out until at least the New Year. Other than that Veh has a fully fit squad to choose from.
While the attacking threat is well documented, remember the defensive players at Armin Veh’s disposal. Alexander Madlung, Ricardo Costa and Andrea Barzagli. They are a well-drilled unit and will prove difficult to break down, especially at the Volkswagen Arena.
Manchester United on the other hand have a number of issues, and they are mostly to do with defenders. As mentioned yesterday, we are in the midst of an almighty injury crisis. From defence to attack we are at less than half strength.
Just a reminder, in case you missed it: Wes Brown, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, John O’Shea, Jonny Evans, Fabio, Rafael, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Gary Neville, Edwin Van Der Sar and Owen Hargreaves.
That would leave Patrice Evra as our only recognised defender. It is tough times at Old Trafford. Tomasz Kuszczak will start in goal as he continues his fine form. It looks as if Michael Carrick will be used as a makeshift centre-half along side Oliver Gill, the 19-year-old son of chief executive David. This has nothing to do with his very close ties to the United hierarchy, apparently.
“It doesn’t concern me. If he is good enough, he plays,” Ferguson told reporters at a press conference.
“That is the name of the game at Manchester United. I had my own son in the squad for four or five years and he was treated exactly the same as any other member of the squad. It will be the same for Oliver.”
Darren Fletcher should deputise at right-back.
The shuffling of the defence will definitely have an effect on the midfield selection. Sir Alex Ferguson will have to pick his strongest side if he wants the valuable away point. Valencia, Gibson and Anderson will all start, with either Obertan or Ji-Sung Park given the left-wing berth. He may even decide to play a five-man midfield, as is so often the case in Europe. So Paul Scholes could keep his place in the side.
Up front there is not Rooney, Berbatov or Macheda, thus leaving Michael Owen or Danny Welbeck to fight it out for a lone striker spot, or try to forge a winning partnership.
The game looks very tough considering the Germans need to win to make sure of a second round spot, they will need no extra motivation and Fergie has already hinted they will be enjoying the injury crisis currently engulfing Old Trafford.
“Wolfsburg will be delighted we have so many injuries,” jested Ferguson.
“I know we might come second in the group but I am not sure whether it really makes much difference.”
It may not make a difference, but top spot would give an easier draw in the next stage and the first leg at home, but ultimately we may pay the price for our medical shortcomings.
Prediction: 2-0 Vfl Wolfsburg
United’s 19-man squad for the game in Wolfsburg: Tomasz Kuszczak, Ben Foster, Patrice Evra, Oliver Gill, Gabriel Obertan, Magnus Eikrem, Paul Scholes, Darron Gibson, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Matty James, Darren Fletcher, Ji-sung Park, Anderson, Cameron Stewart, Nani, Oliver Norwood, Michael Owen, Danny Welbeck
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