Manchester: Manchester United will turn to Rio Ferdinand to marshal the heart of their defence against Otelul Galati in the absence of suspended Nemanja Vidic, manager Alex Ferguson said on the eve of Wednesdays Champions League match.
Ferdinand has found his starting place alongside Vidic increasingly under threat due to injuries and the emergence of youngsters Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.
I explained to Rio other day that its simply we have two young centre halves coming through and Im very glad to have the four of them and I hope I can keep the four of them for a long time, Alex Ferguson said as United are set to return to the scene of their recent domestic humiliation. United were thumped 1-6 by Premier League leaders Manchester City at Old Trafford just over a week ago.
That defeat, which destroyed an 18-month unbeaten home run and was described by manager Alex Ferguson as the worst in his career, has been followed by back-to-back away wins and clean sheets that have owed much to Vidic who missed the City game.
The English champions were unconvincing against them two weeks ago but Ferguson was confident enough of a victory to already be looking ahead to their next home European game against group leaders Benfica on November 22.
We have to win on Wednesday, without doubt, the Scot said on the club website. Were at home and I expect us to win and, if we do that, its in our hands when we play Benfica at home.
I expect Benfica to beat Basel (on Wednesday) as theyre in a bit of disarray with (coach) Thorsten Fink going to Hamburg. Well hopefully win our game and, when we play Benfica at home, itll be the decider in our section.
Since the painful Manchester derby, United have got back to winning ways with a 3-0 League Cup victory at Aldershot and a 1-0 win at Everton in the league on Saturday and they will be keen to show the breach of their home fortress was a mere blip.
They have not lost at home in their last nine Champions League games but they have conceded at least one goal in each of the last five and let in three in their previous Old Trafford group game, a surprise 3-3 draw with Basel.
Their European campaign got off to a shaky start with two draws before beating Galati 2-0 and they sit second in the table on five points, two behind leaders Benfica and one ahead of third-placed Basel. Galati have yet to get off the mark.
Ferguson has signalled he will field a strong side against the Romanians, although he will be without winger Ashley Young and defender Chris Smalling who have foot injuries while midfielder Tom Cleverley is doubtful with an ankle problem.
I dont think there will be a lot of changes, Ferguson said. Maybe two or three but no more. Galatis trip to Manchester is their first to England and could also prove to be coach Dorinel Munteanus last match in charge.
Manchester Citys expensively assembled squad are cruising at the top of the Premier League but are less impressive in their debut Champions League season, sitting third in Group A. All eyes will be on Sergio Aguero, who is in fine form.
Elsewhere, troubled Inter Milan have saved their worst recent performances for the San Siro and despite topping their group are likely to face Lille with more than a little trepidation.
Inter have lost their last three Champions League home matches, including a stunning reverse against Trabzonspor in this seasons opener and a 5-2 thrashing by Schalke 04 last season.
In Serie A, Napoli crushed them 3-0 in their own backyard and on Saturday they suffered another miserable evening with a 2-1 defeat to Juventus in the Derby of Italy.
Although Inter top Champions League Group B with six points, it is a precarious lead with Trabzonspor and CSKA Moscow two points behind and bottom-placed Lille four adrift.
Goalkeeper Julio Cesar and fullback Maicon have joined striker Diego Forlan on the injury list in the last week and even refereeing decisions have been unkind with five penalties awarded against them in nine Serie A games.