Football: Seeding forces new agenda on United
Tuesday 02 November 1999
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."
Latest in Sport
Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce: Manchester United striker 'agrees to personal terms' with Turkish side
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs posts bizarre video of his Miami holiday being invaded by an iguana
Football kits 2015/16: The good, the bad and the downright worst new shirts from around the world for next season
Arturo Vidal to Real Madrid: Transfer news live - Sergio Ramos to Manchester United, Lukas Podolski to leave Arsenal
Chelsea 2015/16 home shirt leaked again as new picture appears online
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 4 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...