Manchester United's perfect record from their first four UEFA Champions League group-stage matches has allowed them already to clinch top spot in Group H. Therefore, the final two group-stage fixtures will be of no consequence for the Red Devils and this will enable manager Sir Alex Ferguson to rest key players. Even though this is the grandest club football competition on the planet, Tuesday's encounter with Turkish side Galatasaray might have the languid feel of a League Cup contest from a United perspective. In fact, one could argue this European night may be more dull because the League Cup actually has the consequence of elimination if the final scoreline is unfavorable. Because of all of this, this preview will be a bit more abbreviated than usual as there is no reason for a tactical preview nor is there for Galatasaray team news (this also gives me an excuse to be lazy).
For the Turkish hosts though, this match is hugely important as they are battling with SC Braga and CFR Cluj for the group's second qualification spot to the knock-out stages. Only one point separates the three clubs ahead of Matchday 5. A vociferous crowd awaits United at Turk Telekom Arena as Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim has labeled this game as one of the most important in his club's history. Ferguson has stated that he intends to respect the competition by deploying a strong side. However, his exclusion of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Rio Ferdinand, Antonio Valencia, Patrice Evra, and Chris Smalling from the travel squad clearly indicates that rest is the priority for the key players on the squad.
For United, the result is not important but getting a run out for some players is. Phil Jones is set to make his season's debut after missing out up until now due to continual injuries and setbacks. Highly rated teenager Nick Powell is expected to be involved as well and this will be eagerly anticipated by supporters as the attacking-midfielder has found it difficult to get first-team games since his summer move from Crewe Alexandra. It's reasonable to expect Darren Fletcher and Anderson to start as well as each are in need in games due to them being behind Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, and Tom Cleverley in the midfield pecking order. These are probably the headline personnel stories ahead of the match.
Anders Lindegaard is expected in goal over Sam Johnstone. If David de Gea is anticipated to be out next weekend, though, due to his wisdom teeth being recently extracted, then Lindegaard could perhaps be rested in favor of Johnstone so that no risk is taken to the Dane. In central-defense, Scott Wootton is expected to partner Phil Jones. Hopefully poor Rafael is given a rest (he's on the travel squad though) due to him featuring in nearly every United game thus far this season. Marnick Vermijl is a candidate to start at right-back as might Jones be too. At left-back, Alexander Buttner will get the nod.
United only brought two natural wingers with them for this match -- Ashley Young and Larnell Cole -- and one of them (Young) is in contention to start this upcoming weekend versus Queens Park Rangers. Therefore, it's very possible that Ferguson could decide to deploy his side in a midfield diamond shape. The possibility of this seemingly increases when one considers the plethora of central-midfielders on the travel squad in need of a game. In a possible diamond, Fletcher could be the holding-midfielder at the base, Cleverley and Anderson could shuttle, while Powell could be the playmaker at the tip. Youngsters Ryan Tunnicliffe and Davide Petrucci provide enough industry as well to participate in a shuttling role.
If wingers are used though, Young and Cole are the most likely candidates to start out wide but Danny Welbeck could also feature near a flank as well. As could Cleverley. This could be a possible scenario in a 4-4-1-1/4-1-3-1ish system where Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) leads the attacking line while Powell plays in support of him. In a diamond system, Welbeck could possibly partner Chicharito up front ahead of the midfield. If either Chicharito or Welbeck are need of a rest, then Federico Macheda could feature up front or out wide as well.
If a diamond system is used, here's a possible starting XI:
If the more typical 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 system is used (or even a 4-3-3ish), here's a possible starting XI:
KO: 7:45pm GMT, 2:45pm EST | Turk Telekom Arena
Live TV: Sky Sports 4 (U.K.), FOX Soccer Plus (U.S.)
Internet: FOXSoccer2go.com (U.S.)
Referee: C Velasco Carballo (Spain)
Odds: Galatasaray 19/20, Draw 5/2, Manchester United 11/4