Wednesday, 17 September 2008

United v Villareal - Preview

First European game as Champions, and we could certainly do with a boost.

Villareal are not to be underestimated, having finished 2nd in La Liga last season, but (as United have shown plenty of times over the last 15 years) European football is a different kettle of fish. This is particularly true away from home, and it will be a relief to be playing at home for the first time since the draw against Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season - which is something else we need to make amends for.

For Villareal, our former "next big thing" Guiseppe Rossi is missing, although Marcos Senna - who impressed at Euro 08 and nearly signed for us in the Carrick summer - is playing as a defensive shield.

We, of course, have plenty to worry about. Scholes is suspended, Evra may be out with concussion, Carrick has his fractured foot and Berba's knee is too sore (I thought we'd sold Saha?). Ronaldo, Park and Gary Neville have yet to step on the pitch this season proper, and Hargreaves has barely done more. All eyes will be on EVDS to improve on his shaky start to the season, and Anderson needs to quieten the (in my opinion ridiculous) flash-in-the-pan chatter.

So, it's all doom and gloom, right? Nah, I can see a half-full glass here. We're at home, so we can expect an attack-minded line-up, and definitely no Rooney the Right Winger. The boys will be desperate to get back out on the pitch after the Anfield debacle, and should be able to make an example of a relatively inexperienced Villareal team. An early goal would be great to settle us down, but I don't see another shock at OT on the cards.

Of the few players who are fit, I would assume that O'Shea will get the nod at left back, rather than Fergie taking a punt on Jonny Evans or Fabio. Equally, if Hargo isn't fit enough to start I would expect Fletcher, not Possebon, to fill in in midfield. It wouldn't surprise me if another stalwart, Giggsy, starts with a view to being subbed for Ronaldo after 60 mins. Nani on the other wing with Rooney and Tevez up top should complete the line-up.

As for all the talk of Manucho, I imagine he'll get a spot on the bench and maybe a runaround for the last ten minutes. I'm all for new players and seeing what they can do, but I'm going to wait longer than some others before declaring him to be better than Drogba. Does make me look forward to the Carling Cup this year, though!

As a final thought, I wonder whether Fergie will rest Brown or Vida and let Gary Neville have a run at right back today ahead of the Chelsea match? It would seem a bit unfair on anyone to throw them cold into that sort of a pressure match - although if anyone could cope, it'd be our club captain. Would be quite a lift for the fans to be able to cheer him onto the pitch with the armband, so who knows...what do you reckon?

Prediction: 3-1 United.

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