Manchester United are hoping to continue their 100% start to the Champions League this season by picking up another three points when SC Braga visit Old Trafford tomorrow morning (AEDST).
Despite promising earlier in the season that he would not take any chances in the Champions League this season, after last season’s poor performance, Sir Alex Ferguson is going to run the risk of playing a slightly weakened line up for the midweek European fixture as he contemplates his team selection for the upcoming game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
Sir Alex has ruled out Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand ahead of the game at his pre-match press conference yesterday, stating that he wanted to rest both players for the massive Premier League fixture United have to fulfill at the weekend. Sir Alex also insisted that Ferdinand’s removal for the team was solely for squad rotation, stating that the miscommunication between the pair over the Kick It Out t-shirt had been sorted out in private discussions between the two.
“The issue’s quite simple,” he said. “I’ve spoken to Rio. I think there was a communication problem. He felt I should have spoken to him on Friday and I obviously didn’t anticipate that he’d have a problem wearing the shirt.
“My advice to him was that I always feel a union is stronger than an individual. It’s important he airs his grievances to the right people, to the PFA or the FA. It’s been a communication problem rather than anything else.
“As the manager of a club you lay down policy and you don’t want to see it ignored. That’s where my anger came from on Saturday. But we’ve resolved the situation, there’s no lingering problems and we move on. That’s the end of the matter.”
“I’m not playing Rio tomorrow,” explained Sir Alex. “We have a game on Sunday against Chelsea and it’s a big one for us so I’m leaving a couple of players out. Rio and Patrice Evra are the older players – those are the two main changes for tomorrow. Other than that we’ve got a big squad.
“We’ve got Ashley Young back and he’ll be involved tomorrow. We’ve got Nani, Valencia, Giggs… plenty of wide players. Of course, we also have plenty of central midfield players. So I have an issue in terms of picking the team. Hopefully I get it right.
“Shinji Kagawa didn’t play on Saturday so he can prepare for tomorrow. Also, Stoke’s a different team to any other side he’s played. But mainly it was to give him a rest before tomorrow.”
With so many options to choose from, it is going to be difficult for SC Braga manager, Jose Peseiro, to counter the many possibilities that Sir Alex could utilize, and has admitted that a draw would be an excellent result for his side, who head into the game as massive underdogs.
“They’re one of the best teams in the world and don’t tend to suffer much when they make changes, so it’ll be very tough whoever they put out,” he said.”We’ve got good players and a good team too, so we’re going to be trying to win. But if we can’t win then a draw is a good result too. We’ll need to defend well, try and keep hold of the ball and keep believing we are capable of winning.”Of course, we don’t have the same resources as United, but I have complete faith in the players I’ve got. It doesn’t do the coach or players any good at all if you start thinking any other way.”
SC Braga come into the game in good form, having won four of their last five, and drawing the other, but their last win came in the Portuguese cup which they could only win in extra time, meaning the players may be suffering from fatigue heading into this important fixture. Braga did play a weakened side in the cup tie, so the majority of their players should be relatively fresh.
Michael Carrick is keen for United to continue their good form in the Champions League, building on scrappy wins against Galatasaray and then away to CFR Cluj, particularly after last season’s dissapointment, stating that the club is taking nothing for granted this time around, despite doing quite well in the competition over the last decade.
“We are not getting carried away,” Carrick told PA Sport. “We cannot afford to think that just because we have had a good start it is going to be an easy ride. That is not the case”It could come back and bite us. We will go into this game [against Braga] like any other and just look to put ourselves in an even better position without looking too far ahead.