United hit by England injury 'plague' after Denmark
By Andrew Cuff
Thursday 02 Oct 2008 07:30:00
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Aalborg vs. United

The starting line up for United comprised of Van Der Sar; Defenders - Evra (left), Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael(right); Midfield - Nani (left), Scholes, O’Shea, Ronaldo (right); Front - Berbatov and Rooney.

Injuries - Carrick and Hargreaves. Gary Neville also, being brought back into the squad slowly after recovering from injury, misses this match.

A match holding much apprehension after the first set of games in Group F of the Champions League kicked off to two goalless draws and it was a race for the first goal and to take the lead in a very competitive group. Celtic travel to Spain to take on Villarreal in the other group game and this is likely to be an explosive game with Celtic only taking home 1 point away out of 15 European away games.

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United desperately need all three points to maintain some match confidence after a disastrous start to the season. After beating Bolton Wanderers in a 2- 0 thriller, United needed to show their strength and commitment to securing all the points. Ferguson vowed to play a maximum squad so as to avoid an embarrassment like against FC Copenhagen two years ago when they secured a shock victory against United to knock United out of the tightly contested group. All eyes started on the referee after Rob Styles pushed the quality of refereeing into question and this was further helped after Wigan took advantage a day later of another refereeing mistake against City to claim all three points. Although it must be said the qualities of European referees in its entirety do tend to perform to a higher standard than the majority of English referees.

United as expected started off with a strong attack, the amazing thing that United used greatly to their advantage is the versatility of the midfield and forwards; with Rooney making a superb link up with Berbatov, Nani and Ronaldo and then also Scholes surprisingly took up a more defensive midfield role with Nani and Ronaldo switching both left and right and Ronaldo especially also moving through the centre alongside O’Shea in the attacks. Scholes was taken off after just 16 minutes of the game and is reportedly out now for 8 to 10 weeks which will be near Christmas when we see his return to the squad; Giggs came on to take his place once against showing United’s versatility in the midfield. Rooney then opened the scoring in the 22nd minute after slipping in a Giggs pass. That seemed to take the wind out of Aalborg as United seemed to camp in the Aalborg half with only the occasional counter attack from the home team. Rafael De Silva the biggest surprise of the game as the youngster showed how confident the defender was both while attacking up the right wing and also then defending; a massive game for any 18 year old player who has just moved to one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Gary Neville seems likely to be restricted to one match a week and Rafael’s performance makes it more likely that Ferguson will give the youngster a run on the field.

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The first half ended with United a solitary goal ahead of the home side, though the second half started with a bang and Berbatov hammered home the second goal 10 minutes into the second half securing his first goal since his signing from Tottenham and with all the accusations running rife in the media over how badly Hotspurs are doing since his departure and how his move was all self motivated. To all those critics as a fan I say you shall see that if the roles were reversed you would not be complaining. A team cannot rely on a single player to hold the team and score all the goals, just as United cannot rely on Ronaldo to always be available to win games. Tottenham agreed the transfer for a little over £30 million and that was their decision they could have refused and then they my not be in the current predicament they find themselves though nothing in football can be certain.

Unfortunately Rooney was forced to be replaced a little over an hour with pains in his ankle and his current situation is uncertain, but I expect we will not see him taking part in Saturday’s away match against Blackburn. Brown was then forced to be United 3 substitution after Rafael also apparently injured himself.

Berbatov then went on to score a second goal in an impressive way with a mid air volley from Ronaldo giving United a 3 - 0 win over Aalborg though the cost of that victory could be massive for United with Carrick not expected to return for another 4 weeks, Scholes out for in the region of 10 weeks and Rooney being a doubt; things look grim though with the depth and versatility of the United squad we shall have to see which players step up to the plate and make an impression on the team.

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As United take on Blackburn on Saturday in the later match at 17h30 on Setanta I expect we will see a familiar backline defence with the return of Gary Neville; the biggest change will be in the midfield, with Ronaldo unlikely to be fully fit and a possibility to start on the bench, we are likely to see Fletcher, Nani, O’Shea and possibly Park in the midfield with Berbatov and Tevez up front.

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