Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Wayne Rooney rested and raring to go

controversial United striker Wayne Rooney, who will start tonight's game, during training in Romania last night
controversial United striker Wayne Rooney, who will start tonight's game, during training in Romania last night

There is a happy precedent about Manchester United failing to win either of their first two Champions League group stage games.

Only in the season of 1998-99 have they done the same in the modern era and no one needs reminding what that campaign led on to.

But comparisons can be superficial. Draws against Benfica and Basle are a different proposition to those against Barcelona and Bayern Munich which opened United's victorious 1999 campaign. While the 3-3 draw in the Nou Camp that year told United how far they had come since the 4-0 defeat on the turf in 1994, the same scoreline against Basle has contributed to the sense that United, with three draws in four, have lost a little of that August momentum.

One of Ferguson's persistent themes is that every modest European side knows how to handle the major ones these days and with his side third in a delicately balanced group, it is likely that Wayne Rooney will be unleashed on Otelul Galati this evening.

Ferguson said he kept Rooney out of Saturday's incendiary Anfield tie because of the devastation of his three-game international ban, though his 21-minute role in midfield told him what he needed to know. “Actually when he came on he was quite bubbly,” Ferguson said.

“He was full of energy and enthusiasm, desperate to get on, which is good because when he was watching the game he probably said, ‘I really could be out there'. He'll be playing tomorrow. He didn't expect (the ban). I don't think any of us did. It was a silly action but it wasn't seriously dangerous. It was a slight reaction. But to get a three-match ban — when he realised it meant missing all the games for England and he might not be involved at all, that resonated in Wayne's mind.”

Rooney will decide later this week whether to launch an appeal, although his United team-mates have obviously decided now is not the time to trigger an in-depth dressing room discussion about the matter.

“Wayne has a lot of experience,” said midfielder Park Ji-sung.

“We don't tell him what he has to do. It wasn't a good action but he played very well when he came on at the weekend. Wayne will show what he has to do on the pitch.”

There could be pitfalls here, even for a United who have lost only one of their previous 24 away games in Europe in the group and knockout stages.

Though the infrastructure of Otelul's stadium failed Uefa's standards, forcing the club to play here at the National Arena, the Bucharest stadium staff have been working to rectify what has been described locally as “a pitch disaster”.

Ferguson said he was relaxed with the pitch, having watched a recording of Otelul's 1-0 defeat to Benfica. Ferguson's European invincibility has evaporated this season and the draw against Basle prompted a sharp response from a manager who again accused his side of “complacency” in that match, last night.

He certainly has Sunday's Manchester derby on his mind, though for once he sounded convincing when he said that this is not a game he will toy with.

“We are disappointed with the position we are in. It's not a tournament where you can afford to be complacent and this game is important for us,” he said.

“We have to win, so I'll play a strong team. But I can play several teams and they would still be strong enough to win the game

“The timescale for recovery is perfect for us, and it's the same for City as well.”

Nemanja Vidic may be restored to central defence for the first time since he left the field at the Hawthorns with a calf injury on 14 August as Rio Ferdinand has been left in Manchester to recover from the rigours of a convincing performance at Anfield.

“It's difficult to say (if it's a must -win game) because it depends on what happens (elsewhere tonight),” the manager concluded.

“We'd like one team to win both games (the other is between Benfica and Basle) so that would take a lot of pressure off us.”

Local confidence is not exactly soaring. Otelul president Marius Stan declared yesterday that “the simple objective is not to be embarrassed”, which will not delight his manager.

Ferguson seeks substantially greater goals.

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