Ian Herbert: Club built on steel appears to have gone soft at the core

  • @ianherbs

Industry runs to the core of Manchester United's opposition tonight – Otelul Galati were formed 47 years ago to represent Romania's largest steel factory – but there is questionable fire in a side against whom anything but victory for United tonight would be a catastrophe.

The Romanian champions do have players to treat with care. Midfielder Gabriel Paraschiv is the one they enthuse about locally for a game intelligence not matched by pace, and 26-year-old striker Marius Pena has physical presence. But the side managed by Dorinel Munteanu, legend of Romania's 1994 World Cup side, have looked anything but champions since stealing in to take the domestic title in a close six-way race last season.

Discipline obscured their mediocrity as Otelul took that championship and no one here is surprised to see them languishing in mid-table domestically, with 12 points from 10 games. They have scored 13 goals in 14 games in all competitions this season.

The enthusiasm nurtured by Munteanu – a member of the Romania national side which reached the last four of the 1994 finals and, after knocking out England, the same stage of Euro 2000 – seems to have gone. The stadium will be filled with Romanian neutrals tonight: Otelul have sold only 3,000 tickets.