x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ferguson has done his homework on Steelworkers

Manchester United, still looking for their first win in the Champions League this season, face a little-known Romanian team in Otelul Galati.

Sir Alex Ferguson may have the services of his captain, Nemanja Vidic, who is returning from injury.
Sir Alex Ferguson may have the services of his captain, Nemanja Vidic, who is returning from injury.

BUCHAREST // Manchester United look for their first win in the Champions League this season when they take on the little-known Romanian team Otelul Galati tonight.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager, conceded that he had "never heard of" Otelul before.

Even in Romania, the "Steelworkers" have a low profile.

Otelul were the surprise winners of their first Romanian championship last season, and tonight they face United at Bucharest's National Arena in the biggest match in their 47-year history.

Apart from Cornel Rapa, a 21-year-old striker who has played five times for Romania, the team is short on familiar names. The midfielder Sorin Frunza, who played in the Champions League with Unirea Urziceni in 2009/10, could feature against United.

Otelul are coached by the former Romanian midfielder Dorinel Munteanu, who promised players bonuses if they won the Romanian championships and reached the Champions League.

Barely known outside the steelworks city in Romania's far east, the team drew notice in 2010 when the captain Gabriel Paraschiv offered to take a 30 per cent pay cut due to the economic downturn, adding that he had been playing worse than usual. Players earn around €40,000 (Dh201,600) a year, compared to about €120,000 a year at top Bucharest teams.

When the group stage draw was made, Ferguson said he had "no idea" where Otelul was from.

"I don't know if they've changed their name, like a lot of European teams, but I'd never heard of them," Ferguson said. "We know plenty now."

With United in need of a win to bring momentum to their Group C campaign after two draws, Ferguson could recall the captain Nemanja Vidic, back from a calf injury, as well as Wayne Rooney, the Portugal winger, Nani, and the Mexico striker, Javier Hernandez. All three started on the bench against Liverpool.

There are no illusions in the Otelul ranks as they seek their first points while playing 150 miles from home because their stadium is too small.

"I just hope we do not make a laughing stock of ourselves" Sergiu Costin, the defender, said.