x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ferguson will not risk rushing Ferdinand

The central defender's fitness record patchy, but Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, is keen to field experienced players such as Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-sung against Benfica.

Sir Alex Ferguson will not risk having Rio Ferdinand, whose fitness level has been risky, at best, recently.
Sir Alex Ferguson will not risk having Rio Ferdinand, whose fitness level has been risky, at best, recently.

Rio Ferdinand will miss Manchester United's opening Champions League game against Benfica in Lisbon on Wednesday.

Ferdinand was not in the 19-man squad that flew to Portugal yesterday, meaning United are without their first-choice central defensive pairing as Nemanja Vidic is missing with a calf problem.

There was no place either for Federico Macheda or Mame Biram Diouf, who scored twice for the reserves in their win over Fulham on Monday, but Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra shrugged off hip and knee knocks picked up at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

It is not thought Ferdinand has suffered a fresh injury. However, after making his first appearance in a month during the 5-0 romp at the Reebok Stadium, and with Chelsea due at Old Trafford on Sunday, Sir Alex Ferguson is not wanting to take any chances with the 32 year old, whose fitness record has been patchy over the past few years. With Ferdinand out, it is likely to mean a move into central defence for Phil Jones, outstanding at full-back on Saturday, who would be making his debut in the competition.

Michael Owen, fresh from watching his horse Brown Panther finish second in the St Leger, was also named, although if changes are made to Ferguson's attacking line-up, Dimitar Berbatov, last season's joint Golden Boot winner, would appear to have more of a claim.

Ferguson has suggested he will rely on experience, which could be good news for Darren Fletcher, Park Ji-sung and Ryan Giggs, who have been reduced in peripheral roles so far this term.

The United boss must also decide whether to hand Anders Lindegaard his competitive debut, or stick with David de Gea, who has been steadily improving after a shaky start to his United career.

It is less than four months since Ferguson's team were put in their place by Barcelona in the final at Wembley.

However, as comprehensive as that defeat was, Michael Carrick refuses to beat himself up about it.

"The Champions League final doesn't still hurt," said the 30 year old. "It was disappointing because we lost the final but it wasn't a massive failure. I haven't watched it again. I went on my holidays and focused on this season. You have to accept they were good. It is up to us to be better."

The quest for this season's Champions League looks a lot more positive than it did at the start of summer thanks to the infusion of so many electrifying young talents into Ferguson's team.

Carrick, Park, Giggs, Fletcher and Antonio Valencia have been rarely seen this season, the latter duo not even getting a place on the bench so far. That is all likely to change tonight if Ferguson sticks with wanting to give his more experienced campaigners a run out.

Carrick understands why he has had to be so patient. It is not just Ferguson who has been enthused by the contribution of the younger players. He has felt the same emotions. And though Tom Cleverley's absence with damaged ligaments has offered a route back to the first team, the Geordie is disappointed his teammate will be missing.

"The young lads have come out flying," Carrick said. "It is great to see them bursting through. The buzz around the squad is fantastic.

"There is enthusiasm and energy and the whole thing has gone up a notch. That has shown on the pitch, so Tom's injury is a bitter blow."

 

OTHER GAMES

Villarreal v Bayern Munich

With seven goals in his last two games, Mario Gomez, the Bayern Munich striker, insists his purple patch is because of his hard-working teammates as they prepare for their Wednesday Champions League tie at Villarreal. Gomez scored four goals in Bayern’s crushing 7-0 win over Freiburg last Saturday in the German league having netted a hat-trick on his previous appearance at Kaiserslautern. “We have 11 players who understand each other perfectly,” said Gomez. 10.45pm (UAE), Aljazeera Sport +2

Inter Milan v Trabzonspor

Inter Milan’s defence will be under scrutiny when they play their first competitive match of the season at the San Siro in the Champions League against Trabzonspor. Inter’s two competitive games so far have ended in defeat, to AC Milan in the Italian Supercup in Beijing and on Sunday in Sicily to Palermo. Gian Piero Gasperini, the coach, has already courted much controversy with his highly publicised switch to a back three from a back four. 10.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +9

Dinamo Zagreb v Real Madrid

Real Madrid will begin their quest for a 10th European Cup without Kaka and their coach Jose Mourinho against Dinamo Zagreb tonight. Kaka will not make the trip to Zagreb because of a reported heel injury, while Mourinho serves the second of a three-match ban resulting from his outburst during the semi-final series against Barcelona last season. Real’s excellent start to the season makes them favourites to come top of Group D. 10.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +5

Lille v CSKA Moscow

Eden Hazard, the Lille midfielder, is looking forward to making his Champions League debut against CSKA Moscow. The Belgium international will get the chance to test himself against Europe’s elite after he played a major role in Lille’s breakthrough Ligue 1 success last term. Hazard enjoyed a stellar campaign that drew the interest of clubs around Europe, with Lille reportedly turning down a number of bids for the 20 year old in the summer. 10.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +6

Basle v Otelul Galati

Thorsten Fink, the Basle manager, is hoping some consistency can get their Champions League campaign off to a strong start against Otelul Galati, the Romanian champions. Basle also started against Romanian opposition at this stage last season, and fell to a 2-1 defeat to CFR 1907 Cluj after conceding twice in the first 12 minutes. But after watching them thrash Servette 4-0 on Saturday in the league, Fink believes his team can do better this time. 10.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +8