Old Trafford to be invaded by the Spanish
By Andrew Cuff
Tuesday 16 Sep 2008 15:00:00
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Old Trafford sets the scene for the start of United’s epic Champions League campaign. With the odds stacked against United after losing a vital game to Liverpool can they rebound and dominate against Villarreal?

The United squad meets a old rival in Robert Pires; who is reportedly fit enough for the game against the current Champions of Europe. The former Arsenal winger has played a vital part in Villarreal’s success at the start of the Spanish season; Villarreal are currently sixth in the Spanish league table ahead of Real Madrid by a solitary point and a win ahead of Barcelona. Although Pires is making a comeback former United sure fire striker Rossi seems to be a doubtful starter for opponents Villarreal. A thigh strain ruled the striker out of a glorious return to Old Trafford after proving an instant hit in the Spanish La Liga scoring 11 out of 27 games last season.

With the expected return of Ronaldo to the United squad likely to cause a stir around the Theatre of Dreams after the controversy over his loyalty to the club this past summer. What rubs salt in the wounds is that he wanted to move to Spanish club Real Madrid and he shall be returning at home against Spanish club Villarreal. The question in many United fans minds will be if Ferguson stays with his losing combination of 4-3-3 or goes with the tried and trusted 4-4-2. The important decision will also be which strikers Ferguson will play. I do not expect he play half a team. With the defence likely to be Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra and possibly Neville or Hargreaves down the left. A midfield comprising of Anderson, Giggs, Ronaldo and very possibly United’s lucky charm in Darren Fletcher though the centre midfield positions are likely to change and Giggs is likely to be substituted later on in the game as his career winds down slowly. Up front I expect we will see Tevez and Berbatov starting and possibly Rooney coming in as substitute for Giggs and then switching sides with Ronaldo who can then attack down the left with Evra.

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With the possibility of United’s record shirt sponsors going bust could United possibly secure as big a global partner for a greater price. Although it has not been confirmed, AIG who signed the shirt sponsorship deal with United for a record £56 million 2 years ago have a further 2 years of the four year deal left and AIG shares currently down 40%. Through all of this it is expected that the sponsorship for the moment is still sound and if AIG was to follow a number of global companies United are likely to be the ones left smiling. With club publicity at an all time high after winning the double last season and shirt sponsorships seemingly unaffected by the global market; United could end up better off if things went sour with AIG. The tricky part will be for United to find a company with as much global influence as AIG has and willing to spend that amount of money; two things that need to match up for United to put pen to paper. Looking at West Ham’s current position will give us a good idea of the market after sponsors XL tour operators went into liquidation this past week and now West Ham are having to secure a new sponsorship deal.

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The match against Villarreal on Wednesday night is likely to prove very fiery and eventful and a win could boost morale and help the United team regain the confidence to face rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this coming weekend. A confidence booster is needed for fans and players alike after Ferguson’s rampage on Saturday after a humiliating defeat at Anfield. Can Sir Alex Ferguson rally the team and produce something world class?

Only the match on Wednesday night on Sky Sports 2 with kick off at 19h45 BST. The match will prove to be a big decider in this crucial point of the season as United try to regain dominance of European football once again.

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