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Links, lineups and predictions after the jump!
More links later as the match gets closer.
PROJECTED LINEUP: Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, O'Shea, Nani, Giggs, Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov
I think there are emotions run amok in this game...whether it's the locals who still take issue with Rangers last trip to Manchester or former SAF assistant Walter Smith returning to Old Trafford or the fact that SAF gets a chance to play not only the club he supported as a boy, but the club that he arguably had his greatest success as a player. For these reason alone, United would be clear favorites. Add to that the disparity in quality between the two sides and I think United should prevail.
With Rio returning and a (very) hard lesson learned at the weekend, I honestly don't think United will ever take the foot off the gas, espeically with this being the first match of the group phase. It'd be nice to set the tone for the other 5 games (as well as the immediate future in the league) by hanging 4 or 5 goals on them and getting away from the group on goal difference. Valencia are @Bursaspor tonight, so don't expect them to put a bunch of goals on the board. It'd be nice to look at Valencia and United both having 3 points, but United have a GD of +4 to Valencia's +1...makes a lot of difference in preperation for that showdown a fortnight from now in Spain.
I think Darren Fletcher gets the nod in this one, simply because he's the only Scot on the squad and as captain of the Scottish national team, he knows the Rangers players well. Antonio Valencia will be well rested after his (long) trip back from South America last week . Berbatov will get his chance to shine....while he still has plenty of detractors among United faithful, his supporters have long claimed a run of games is what his form needs to be as good as he was at Spurs. He's had his run...he's been quite impressive during it, too...now it's time to shine. I think either Scholes or Giggs will get the start opposite Fletcher in the central midfield. With the lineup, it should be pretty simple for SAF to move from the 4-4-2 to the 4-3-3 or other similar formations as he wants.
I'll get into this more in a future post, but I'm of Scotish blood...it's what I like about SAF and Fletcher...we're proud of our Scottish roots. But in Scotland, I'm a Hoops fan. And while I may not show them the support I show United, respect for the Old Firm dictates my hatred of all things Gers. I'm dead serious when I say my daughters middle name is "Alexis" after SAF....but I gotta go against his boyhood team.