Sir Alex Ferguson will rotate his squad for the Champions League tie with Bursaspor tonight. The United manager, without want-away striker Wayne Rooney through injury, is set to pick several younger players for the Turkish champions’ visit. United’s double-header with Bursaspor could seal qualification to the knock-out stages.
“They have lost their first two games and maybe that is their lack of experience,” said Ferguson.
“The Champions League is not easy. With our home record we hope we can put it to bed.
“There are opportunities for one or two of the younger players who need experience – but that is not to say we are taking it lightly.”
Rooney’s ankle injury, caused by a training ground challenge from Paul Scholes, is perhaps an ironic relief to all parties. After yesterday’s dramatic events in which the United manager laid-bare Rooney’s “adamant” desire to leave Old Trafford and “disrespect” for the club’s position, Ferguson could hardly pick the former Evertonian.
With Michael Owen also out for around 10 days with a minor groin problem, Ferguson is likely to start Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and Nani in a three-man attack. The Mexican scored against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, while Berbatov has seven goals in all competitions this season.
However, it is almost two years since Berbatov last scored a Champions League goal, versus Celtic in October 2008.
Meanwhile, United will also be without Ryan Giggs, whose hamstring strain forced the winger off against West Brom, and Jonny Evans who is suffering form a hip complaint. Park Ji-Sung is unlikely to play after complaining of pain in his knee, while Bébé is also unavailable for selection.
It leaves Ferguson with just one fit winger for the match against Champions League débutant Bursaspor. The changes should mean a start for Brazilian midfielder Anderson, although the 22-year-old will hope it is not another outing on the left-wing.
With Paul Scholes also likely to rest ahead of United’s visit to Stoke City at the weekend, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Darron Gibson will compete for two places in central midfield.
Bursaspor arrives in good form domestically, topping the league in Turkey with 20 points from eight games, but having lost all six European ties in the club’s history to date. The team has already lost at home to Valencia and away to Rangers in this year’s Champions League.
However the first-time Turkish Champions should welcome back star winger Volkan Şen, who was dropped for the team’s match against Karabukspor at the weekend as punishment for travelling without the manager’s consent to see his girlfriend in the USA.
It’s an experience that manager Ertugrul Sağlam says creates some sympathy with Ferguson’s current drama over Rooney’s impending departure.
“These problems occur from time to time with players,” said Sağlam.
“I know what it is like to have player problems but Manchester United have the depth of quality in their squad to know that whoever they put in to replace Rooney is likely to be of a very high standard.
“United are going through a troubled time.
“There is no reason why we cannot return to Turkey with a surprise result.”
United’s record against Turkish opposition is mixed at best, with Ferguson’s side having won only four of its last 10 matches and lost three of the last five. United has won two and lost two of its five home games against Turkish opponents, including a surprise loss against Besiktas last season.
Despite two opening defeats, Bursaspor supporters are still hopeful the side can progress this season.
“Glasgow Rangers and Valencia have Champions League experience that Bursaspor don’t,” Bursaspor News editor Ercan Baştürk told United Rant.
“But when the quality of the current squads of the three teams are compered, I don’t think it will be a suprise if Bursaspor finish the group in second place.
“It’s not easy to beat United at Old Trafford of course but there are three results in football so why not? It would be great for Bursaspor to win at Old Trafford.”
Bursaspor, only the second Turkish side to win the SuperLig from outside Istanbul, took the title last season in dramatic fashion. It’s a victory that inspired the town of more than two million, says Baştürk.
And in Sağlam Bursaspor possesses the country’s outstanding young coach, with a brace of promising players now forcing their way into the full Turkish national set-up.
“Sercan Yıldırım and Volkan Şen are outshining youngsters, I think they will attract attention,” adds Baştürk.
“Ali Tandoğan, Federico Insua, Ozan İpek and Leonel Nunez may suprise rival fans.”
With United on the lookout for a new striker, it’s the visitors’ chance to impress.
Bursaspor (4-4-1-1): Ivankov; Ali Tandogan, Omer, Öztürk, Vederson; Odabaşı, Svensson, Insúa, Ozan Ipek; Batalla; Turgay.
Subs from: Özkan, Aziz, Vederson, Erdoğan, Çimşir, Ozan Has, Kiriţă, Yıldırım, Şen, Albayrak, Demir, Steinert, Tandoğan, Bahadır, Keçeli, Ergić, Núñez, Stepanov, Ramazan Sal, Tekin.
Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Amos, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, O’Shea, Rafael, Fabio, Brown, Anderson, Nani, Carrick, Gibson, Fletcher, Hernández, Berbatov, Macheda.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Elenito Di Liberatore & Luca Maggiani
Fourth official: Emidio Morganti
Additional assistant referees: Daniele Orsata & Andrea De Marco
United – DWWDWD
Bursaspor – WLWLDD