Manchester United take on Sporting Braga in their UEFA Champions League group-match Wednesday with the Red Devils looking to consolidate their position on top Group H following their strong start to the competition.
Sir Alex Ferguson's men haven't been as dominant as some would have liked or expected but have still posted consecutive wins over Galatasaray, CFR Cluj and Sporting Braga, and now play the Portuguese side for the return fixture in Portugal.
It's been a big week and a bit for United, who have chalked up huge wins over Arsenal and Chelsea in the English Premier League and were eliminated in a 5-4 defeat to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup as well.
They'll be looking to put all of that aside for the moment and concentrate on their quest for European glory: a quest that they have begun in the best possible fashion.
Let's take a look at all the last minute Manchester United team news heading into this one and see if we can pick a potential starting side to beat Sporting Braga.
Phil Jones (back and knee), Shinji Kagawa (knee) and Nemanja Vidic (knee) are all unavailable for selection in this one given their current injury status.
All three are thought to be out for at least another two weeks, which is when Kagawa is likely to return for the Red Devils.
Jones and Vidic could be closer to Christmas (per Physio Room).
With Vidic and Jones out, Manchester United have been forced to play a relatively similar defensive unit week in and week out this season, but are now slowly starting to get some defensive options back heading into the all important final group-stage matches.
The Daily Mail reports that Chris Smalling is back in full training following his metatarsal injury earlier in the season, but it's expected to line up for the Red Devils in this one, according to comments made by manager Sir Alex Ferguson:
Smalling's training fine. I think [he could play] maybe not next week but the week after because we want to make sure he's back and stays back."
Ferguson also gave some insight into the midfield he could use against Braga, following comments he made via Inside United (h/t BBC Sport) earlier in the week:
After the experience of last season [being eliminated early], we're showing that we're paying more attention to team selection in the sense that we've used a big portion of experienced players.
However, that news is seemingly countered by the fact that Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes were not included in the traveling 20-man squad that went to Portugal—the one that Sir Alex Ferguson will pick his starting lineup from.
Nick Powell, who was included in the squad, didn't participate in training.
The only question here about United's attack is seemingly who do the Red Devils want to give starting opportunities to and who do they rest for the weekend.
Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have both been in excellent form domestically, though they both could use with some time off some point soon, whilst Javier Hernandez has been excellent for United in both their recent Champions League and Capital One Cup matches.
Danny Welbeck played the full 90 minutes against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup recently, and all-but a full game against Stoke just before that, but hasn't featured in the Champions League this year—playing just 13 minutes in two games (per WhoScored).
He could be set for a recall heading into this one.
Here is the provisional 20-man squad that travelled to Portugal to take on Sporting Braga in the Champions League this week (per BBC Sport).
Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Anders Lindegaard
Defenders: Rafael da Silva, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Alexaner Buttner, Chris Smalling, Patrice Evra
Midfielders: Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Nick Powell
Forwards: Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck
Possible Starting Xi
At the back, I've gone for Anders Lindegaard over David De Gea—simply in light of the goalkeeper rotation that Ferguson is currently employing at United.
The lack of injuries doesn't give United too many options defensively, especially with the news that Smalling is probably not ready.The only change I've made is Alexander Buttner over Patrice Evra, who was superb against Arsenal in their recent Premier League clash.
The midfield is where many of these changes by Ferguson will take place with the United boss eager to rest some of his players ahead of Saturday's match in the English Premier League against Aston Villa at Villa Park.
I think we could see Danny Welbeck out on the left again—a position where he has played four times already this year—to be coupled with Antonio Valencia out on the right wing, to make sure that Ferguson doesn't completely abandon his strength out wide.
Valencia is one of United's best players, and with the likes of Nani and Ashley Young more than capable replacements for Valencia on the weekend (should he play here and be rested), I wouldn't be surprised to see him line up in this one.
I've gone with experience in the midfield here of Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, with the two veterans knowing what is needed to get the job done away from home in a tricky Champions League fixture—something they've become very familiar with over the years.
Tom Cleverley needs rest following his big month and was perhaps a little fortunate not to pick up a red card against the Gunners on the weekend.
Anderson was also another midfield alternative but given he played a full 120 minutes against Chelsea last week and came on as a substitute against Arsenal, I can't see him being anything more than a substitute for Valencia or Welbeck in this one.
I've also opted to rest Wayne Rooney here, with Robin van Persie to play and perhaps get rested for when United play Aston Villa on the weekend.
Javier Hernandez's performance against Sporting Braga last time ensures that he earns a starting berth in the Champions League this week.
Any latest Manchester United team news for their match vs. Braga?
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