Having rested star players Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia on Saturday, Sir Alex Ferguson seems intent on not repeating last year’s catastrophic UEFA Champions League campaign. Like the preceding year, Manchester United have a group that looks comfortable on paper. However, unlike last year, unless the Red Devils play with a sense of urgency and look to dispatch their opponents, European supremacy might have to wait another full season.
And Turkish side Galatasaray are no strangers to the UEFA Champions League. With loads of experience at the European level, they will try to make life difficult for the English outfit.
Nevertheless, I expect Manchester United to walk away with all three points, as they boast an impressive lineup, a multitude of tactics to choose from and loads of confidence.
The back line might be a bit problematic, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling still out with injury, but there are options aplenty for United at the back and should not pose any significant problems.
Of course, Wayne Rooney is still injured, and that would have been a massive blow, but with Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie fit after that brief injury scare, United should look to coast by if they don’t show too much complacency.
I expect United to play a 4-2-3-1 formation with Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes as the double pivot and Shinji Kagawa playing behind the striker.
Alex Büttner might have been impressive in his debut campaign, but Sir Alex rested Patrice Evra for a reason, and that was for the experienced Frenchman to man the left defensive flank.
On the right, it will be Rafael.
The usual pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand is expected at the center.
Robin van Persie will lead the offensive charge.
So the most likely formation Starting XI would be De Gea; Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael; Carrick, Scholes; Nani, Kagawa, Valencia, van Persie.
Player to Watch
On this particular match, I will go with Paul Scholes as the one to watch.
He changed the game completely after his introduction in the game against Southampton, while he was superb yet again against Roberto Martinez’s Wigan.
His impeccable passing, along with his combination with Carrick, will allow United to take control of the midfield and distribute effectively.
The brief injury scare was not, thankfully, related to his ankle, and he seems to be completely fit, having almost scored against Wigan with his first touch. His movement was impressive in the game, and he will look to combine well with his teammates against the Turkish outfit.
Player to Defend Against
Galatasaray’s Johann Elmander was impressive last year, leading them to the title with his impressive 12 goals. He was on the scoresheet yet again last Saturday, as Galatasaray overcame Antalyaspor with ease, knocking four goals past them.
However, besides Elmander, Galatasaray does have a host of other superb players within their ranks—Felipe Melo, Milan Baros, Emmanuel Eboue, Umut Bulut are just a few names.
Follow me on Twitter: @BrenGoetze