Sir Alex Ferguson takes a dilapidated squad to Turkey seeking a fifth win in a row and effective qualification for the first knock-out round of the Champions League. Manchester United’s players trained in the Bursa Ataturk Stadium last night ahead of the match in which Ferguson promises the Reds will respect their freshman opponents.
Ferguson left ten players behind in Manchester, with Rio Ferdinand the most high-profile casualty. The England captain insists that his back played no part in the decision to skip a four-hour flight, although fixtures against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City in the coming week seem to take priority.
United will also be without Darron Gibson, Jonny Evans, Anderson and Federico Macheda with a virus, while injuries have robbed the Reds of Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs, Antonio Valencia and Owen Hargreaves.
Ferguson insisted the lengthy list of absentees is not a sign of over-confidence from his outfit. Bursaspor has lost each of its games in this year’s competition.
“We’re not disrespecting or under‑rating Bursaspor,” Ferguson said.
“Bursaspor are top of their league and you’ve got to give respect to anyone who is top of their league. We understand that facing Turkish sides is very difficult because we’ve experienced that when we’ve played Besiktas and Galatasaray and Fenerbahce in the past; all difficult games.”
Ferdinand’s absence almost certainly means a start for summer signing Chris Smalling, alongside captain Nemanja Vidic in the centre of defence. The former Fulham defender has shone in four starts to date for United. Indeed, the 6’4″ defender has out-performed erstwhile first reserve Evans this season.
“With young players, you always have to give them time but, fortunately for the lad, he has come in and taken to it very quickly,” added Ferguson of the £10 million summer signing.
“He has the physical side. He is very intelligent, a tall lad and quick with the ball, and we want to give him as much experience as we can.”
Although it says something for the quality in the opening stages of the Champions League that Ferguson has regularly chosen to rest key players. Not quite a Carling Cup extension perhaps, but matches against Rangers and Bursaspor at home have seen the Scot make up to 10 changes.
However, Ferguson rejects the assertion that the Champions League has become too predictable in the opening rounds. This charge follows changes by UEFA President Michel Platini to introduce more teams from Europe’s so-called smaller nations.
“It’s a natural thing. You won’t get the same crowd or attention or drama if you see Arsenal against a lower team rather than against Manchester United in the Premier League.” added Ferguson.
“But this is the best tournament for me, a fantastic tournament, and it is better than the World Cup in my opinion.”
“Have you seen the last six World Cups? It’s like going to the dentist.”
“In the Champions League, you get some unbelievable games. The group stage is just something you have to get through before it becomes more exciting.”
United can seal qualification with a win in Bursa and a strong Champions League away record augers well. United has won seven of its last eight Champions League away games, most recently the 1-0 victory at
Valencia. The only blip in that sequence is the last-minute defeat at Bayern Munich in last season’s quarter-final.
Ferguson is likely to keep faith with the attacking duo of Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernández that started against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Indeed, with Bursaspor toothless at Old Trafford the Scot may opt to rest Paul Scholes, Nani and Patrice Evra, with Gabriel Obertan joining Park Ji-Sung, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher in midfield.
Norwegian youngster Magnus Eikrem has travelled with the squad and could make the bench. Meanwhile, 20-year-old defender Rafael has been named in Brazil’s squad for their friendly against Argentina in Doha, Qatar on 17 November.
Despite being top of the Turkish Süper Lig Ertuğrul Sağlam’s side has seemed out of its depth in this year’s Champions League. With no points and no goals from their first three Champions League matches, Bursapor hopes to break its duck tonight.
Not that the poor run will dampen the spirits of a boisterous home crowd, with the Yeşil Timsahlar – Green Crocodiles – benefiting from one of the best atmosphere’s in Turkish football despite the compact nature of the 18,587 capacity stadium.
Milan Stepanov and Ali Tandoğan returned on Friday having missed the win over Ankaragücü. Meanwhile, Federico Insúa is also fit following a hamstring injury.
Bursaspor – 4141 – Ivankov; Ali Tandogan, Öztürk, Erdoğan, Verderson; Svensson; Volkan Şen, Ergić, Insua, Ipek; Sercan Yildirim.
Subs from: Omer, Odabaşı, Svensson, Insúa, Batalla, Turgay, Özkan, Aziz, Çimşir, Ozan Has, Kiriţă, Albayrak, Demir, Steinert, Tandoğan, Bahadır, Keçeli, Núñez, Stepanov, Ramazan Sal, Tekin.
Van der Sar, Amos, Kuszczak, Evra, Brown, Vidic, Smalling, Rafael, Fabio, O’Shea, Eikrem, Scholes, Obertan, Bébé, Fletcher, Carrick, Park, Nani, Berbatov, Hernández.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (GER)
Assistant referees: Jan-Hendrik Salver (GER) & Mike Pickel (GER)
Additional assistant referees: Babak Rafati (GER) & Tobias Welz (GER)
Fourth official:Felix Zwayer (GER)
Bursaspor – LDDLWD
United – DDWWWW
If the pre-match talk focussed on Wayne Rooney’s statement that the striker is leaving Old Trafford because of Manchester United’s lack of ambition then Sir Alex Ferguson’s second string offered little in counter-argument. United edged a dull encounter against the Turks, but offered little inspiration as the post-Rooney era began.
Rooney, as expected, stayed clear of Old Trafford, although the United faithful let no doubt remain about the collective feeling. One banner, with more than a hint of malice pondered ‘Who’s the whore now Wayne?’, while another suggested United’s supporters were less likely to forgive the Scouser than his wife, Coleen.
Neither Ferguson nor chief executive David Gill would be drawn further on the Rooney saga before the game. Ferguson, however, could hardly have been happy with his side’s underwhelming performance even if a clean sheet is welcome.
“I think we could have pushed on better,” the United manager told Sky Sports.
“We did the job well in the sense that we kept the intensity right. We controlled the whole match and they only had one shot, so we did that right.
“I didn’t think they’d score, because defensively our concentration was right.”
Ferguson responded to Rooney’s criticism by sending out a fringe side, including Federico Macheda as United’s lone striker, supported by Nani and Park Ji-Sung from the flanks.
With Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov rested, Bursaspor might have sensed an opportunity for an Old Trafford upset but the Turkish champions had lost its previous six European matches, including games against Valencia and Rangers this season. That lack of experience showed, with United dominating the opening exchanges.
As, arguably, United’s senior player on the pitch, Nani set about winning the game for the home side early on. A seventh minute turn and drive towards goal brought reward for the winger, who lashed home a left-footed 20-yard shot past Dimitar Ivankov for the winning goal.
On this evidence Nani is United’s sole remaning player of world renown – a fact noted, perhaps, by Rooney.
The stunning goal reflected the early pattern in the match, with United dominating possession, if not creating clear-cut chances.
United’s vibrant early tempo was perhaps understandable given the circumstance; it didn’t last though as Bursaspor, whose players seemed overawed by the occasion for the first 20, slowly grew into the game.
The visitors signalled their intent when Sercan Yıldırım span Nemanja Vidic but failed to pick out a colleague after a rapid break. Then just after the half hour Rafael da Silva was forced into a last ditch tackle as Burdaspor’s rising star Volkan Şen drove into United’s penalty area.
But the scratch United side was guilty, as too often in this season’s Champions League campaign, of wastefulness in possession. Nani, Park Ji-Sung and Anderson each culpable of gifting the ball to the Turks with unnecessary carelessness.
Carrick in particular, whose place at United has been questioned now for more than a year, was seemingly both causal in the pass and wasteful in front of goal, with his sole chance from the edge of the opposition area blasted high and wide.
United fans attempted to raise the flat atmosphere at half time, with a less than family-friendly reminder of which city Rooney hails from. Fun perhaps but it did little for the United side, which was content to hold the slender lead against very average opposition.
Yet it was not until past the hour that United genuinely threatened in the second period, with Anderson and Macheda exchanging passes before the Italian dwelled too long on the ball to get his shot away.
Few chances flowed. Nani, receiving a pass from Darren Fletcher on the right, lashed an effort straight at Ivanov. Then Gabriel Obertan, on as a second half substitute for the disapointing Anderson, headed Nani’s corner wide when perhaps he should have scored.
Another substitute, Javier Hernandez, fired past the post as the game petered out.
Chances, though, were few and far between with United’s tempo almost as flat as the Old Trafford atmosphere. Little wonder, with the minimal entertainment on offer.
Inevitably, talked turned to again to Rooney. Ferguson, told of Rooney’s demand for assurances about United’s future spending, responded in cutting fashion.
”Rooney wants assurances?,” asked the United manager. “Have I won 30 trophies or what?”
He’s right but on this evidence the Champions League isn’t likely to become 31.
United – 451 – Kuszczak; Evra, Smalling, Vidic, Rafael Da Silva; Nani, Anderson (Hernandez 77), Carrick, Fletcher, Park Ji-Sung (Obertan 71); Macheda.
Bursaspor – 451 – Ivankov; Wederson, Erdogan, Stepanov (Ozturk 46), Insua; Sen, Svensson, Ipek, Tandogan (Keceli 71), Ergic; Yildirim (Bahadir 46).
Possession: United 61% – 39% Bursaspor
Attempts: 12 – 4
On target: 6 – 2
Corners: 6 – 1
Fouls: 11 – 9
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