The post-Sir Alex Ferguson era has been filled with twists and turns up until this point. The favoured one, David Moyesis about to embark on his first MAJOR EUROPEAN adventure tonight when Steffan KeiSling’s Leverkusen visit Old Trafford for the first time in 11 long years.
The draw has pitted a European powerhouse with three other ambitious clubs and the great SAF has warned his successor that this is possibly the toughest group stage draw he has ever seen. He couldn’t be wrong.
High flying Real Sociedad who accounted for Lyon’s elimination in the play-offs and MirceaLucescu’s Shakhtar Donetsk complete the tricky group. Any slip-ups will be fatal.
Manchester United are coming off an unconvincing 2-0 win v Crystal Palace at Old Trafford and sit 5th in the standings. That is dismal compared to what Bayer have done so far in the Bundesliga.
Four wins out of five and they only sit behind Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich on the table. It has been a dream start for former Liverpool skipper and Finnish Legend, Sami Hypia who took over first as caretaker boss last year and is now fully at the helm in Leverkusen. His exceptional leadership qualities can be seen in the organization and displays of his wards thus far.
The red devils don’t have fond memories of the last time both clubs met as it was Klaus Toppmoller’s Bayer that sent them packing out of the 01-02 UCL when they were within touching distance of a 2nd Champions League final in four years. The heroics of Roy Keane and co fell short that night. Revenge it is then?
Nani is suspended for this tie after the CuneytCakir drama last time out. This game might come too soon for Jones, Rafa and Danny Welbeck and with Manchester City lying in wait on Sunday, changes are expected to cope with the tight fixture schedule.
27.5 Million man, Marouane Fellaini is set to make his first ever appearance from the start for his new club and it is very likely that he will be alongside the indispensable Michael Carrick. The TC23 brand has to wait for his chance yet again after failing to impress in his first couple of games (bar Chelsea).
Wayne Rooney will don his protective headband once more as he continues his attempts to win back his confidence and his teammates trust. Robin Van Persie cannot wait to make up for the shocking misses v Real Madrid and the Japanese witch doctor, Shinji Kagawa is waiting to hear his name read out as a starter after the early season disappointments. Rio Ferdinand is aware of the fact that he cannot play all the games.
With J.Evans fit, Rio should be rested for the crunch Derby in five days time.
For Bayer, Sami Hyypia cannot believe that his first European adventure takes him to Old Trafford where he has been a worthy adversary for a decade. In fact, the Liverpool Legend’s last 90 minutes as a player in the English League came against Manchester United in that memorable 4-1 demolition of the red army.
He has fond memories of his playing days and won 4 games at the Theatre of Dreams. He meets his fellow ROOKIE European campaigner in David Moyes, who despite qualifying Everton for the UCL eight years ago, never got the chance to coach a team in the Group Stages. The yellow Submarine(s) (Villareal) and Juan Roman Riquelme made sure that goal was never achieved.
The likes of Sidney Sam and KeiSling have scored 8 goals between them in the Bundesliga this term and that is somewhat outrageous considering how many pundits predicted they will struggle following the sale of Schurrle to Chelsea.
Former Hamburg star, Heung-Min Son was brought in to replace the aforementioned player and he has done really well since then.
Sam, who has Nigerian roots, has stepped up his game beyond belief and is a major threat alongside forgotten German predator, KeiSling.
Lars Bender (second half of the Bender twins) faces a late fitness test and should pass it with flying colours. You don’t get the chance to face Manchester United every day.
Omer Toprak was rested at the weekend and should be recalled. Dom Kohr and Niklas Lomb miss lout through injury. The vastly improved Leno has to punch above his weight to keep out the rampaging United RVP-Rooney led frontline. Spahic and co will provide the needed shield.
For Sami Hypia and David Moyes, this match is more than Manchester United v Bayer Leverkusen affair. It is definitely a Liverpool-Everton rivalry and a chance for the Finn to get one over the red devils as he loved to do when he was at Merseyside.
The atmosphere will be electric to say the least and Sami knows better than to expect a rousing applause.
MANCHESTER UNITED: DDG, Fabio, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Fellaini, Kagawa, Rooney, Giggs, RVP
David De Gea has yet to concede at Old Trafford this season and the experience of Ryan Giggs will be vital in this game. He is the only survivor from both sides meeting eleven years ago. With 134
Champions League appearances, no one has featured more for one club in Europe’s elite club competition. Another one for the EVERGREEN LEGEND who turns 40 in November.
BAYER LEVERLUSEN: Leno, Donati, Toprak, Spahic, Boenisch, Bender, Reinartz, Castro, Heung-Min, Sam, KeiSling
The trio of Sam, KeiSling and Son Hueng-Min must be closely watched. Castro is no stranger to spectacular goals. How he can be kept at bay is left for Fellaini and Carrick to find out.
Referee DamirSkomina was last spotted at Old Trafford in February 2012 when Frank De Boer’s Ajax stunned the United faithful in a 2-1 win. He dished out 16 yellow cards and a single red in the five matches he officiated last season. That means he is not afraid to dish them out as at when due.
Manchester United have been abysmal at home for sometime now. Just 3 wins out of the last 9 home games in the competition is a terrible record.
Four out of the last 6 have been lost and that has to be transformed if they intend to go far this time around. The exit of last season was controversial and the wound is still fresh. Making amends is all that is required.
However, Bayer 04 are party spoilers and they have everything needed to claim a historic first victory on English soil tonight. That is if United let them.
Written by Ohireime Eboreime
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