Football: Seeding forces new agenda on United

DILEMMAS ARE the football manager's lot and Sir Alex Ferguson has a large one to ponder before tonight. On one hand he wants to rest weary players; on the other, he would like to beat Sturm Graz at Old Trafford to ensure Manchester United finish top of Champions' League Group D and acquire seeded status for the second phase. How he balances this wish list will dictate the character of the match.

In an ideal world he would like to field a Worthington Cup-type team, go gung-ho in pursuit of an entertaining match and allow tired players a night off. However, he is already without the suspended David Beckham and Paul Scholes and as fellow-qualifiers Marseilles could yet overtake United and secure the favoured spot he will reluctantly field Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and a fair degree of caution.

"Last week there was a sense of relief after we qualified in Zagreb but now there is a new agenda," Sir Alex said. "The seeding issue has made it an important game for us because we need to be No 1 in the group. We're not afraid of the big clubs but we would prefer to avoid them if we can."

Sir Alex has said Gary Neville, David May, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mark Wilson will definitely start but while a team supplemented by United's reserves would probably have been strong enough to dispose of the Austrian side who began the Champions' League programme so disappointingly, they have made large strides since, winning their last two games, and are the favourites to take the third place spot that will ensure a Uefa Cup place.

"It takes time to get used to the Champions' League," Sir Alex said, "and we were lucky to play them so soon.

"The 3-0 scoreline flattered us because they had several chances and since then they have scored three goals against Zagreb and Marseilles, which shows they're a good side."

The advantage for both teams at Old Trafford is that as long as they match the result in Marseilles they will finish above their respective rivals. So if Croatia Zagreb, who dismissed their coach, Ossie Ardiles, last week, begin to succumb to a hatful of goals, for example, Graz can ease off. Similarly, the pressure will be off United if Marseilles fall behind.

Last season United and Bayern Munich unashamedly played out the last 20 minutes at Old Trafford once they knew a 1-1 draw would be beneficial for both sides and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the closing stages tonight will stoop to the same "after you" depths. It can be safely assumed that both benches will have intelligence coming in from the south of France.

The intelligence flowing from Old Trafford yesterday was that reports over the weekend that Keane will definitely leave United when his contract runs out this summer are premature. "I know more than anyone," Sir Alex said, "and we haven't given up hope. He will make his decision when he is ready."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - Dereham

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project