England's Jekyll and Hyde champions went some way to rediscovering their preferred personality in beating Arsenal at the weekend. Tonight at Old Trafford they need to complete their recovery. A revenge victory over Juventus in the Champions' League will almost secure their passage to the lucrative quarter-final stage. Defeat could allow Fenerbahce to ease past them.
These matches are often preceded by Alex Ferguson complaining that no other country would force their European representatives to play just days after a major Premiership fixture. This time the roles are reversed. While United played on Saturday Juventus faced Milan, and drew 0-0, on Sunday night. Preparation was further disrupted by bad weather which delayed yesterday's flight to Manchester. Then they are off to Tokyo, to play River Plate of Argentina in the Intercontinental Cup.
Since they appear sure to qualify for the Champions' League quarter-finals, this schedule has led to suspicions that Juventus will not be entirely committed tonight. Marcello Lippi, the Juventus coach, dismissed such suggestions last night. "We will try to win," Lippi said. "We only need a point but that won't stop us going into the game as normal. We will play with a will to win because if we lose the consequences could be serious and we might not even qualify."
Lippi was confident that his side would not be overwhelmed by the Old Trafford atmosphere. "It won't be the first time we've played in a stadium with 55,000 people against us," he said.
Two of the Juventus side that overwhelmed United in Turin have since suffered serious injuries, Gianluca Pessotto (Achilles tendon) and Antonio Conte (knee ligament). A third, Christian Vieri, is likely to be dropped. Moreno Torricelli, Angelo Di Livio and Vladimir Jugovic are the likely replacements. All are internationals.
United will be without Denis Irwin and Gary Pallister but they can recall Roy Keane. Ferguson said Karel Poborsky would drop out of the side which defeated Arsenal.
European teams are often described as being slower than English ones but an abiding memory of Turin is Gary Neville confessing his amazement at how fast Juventus were. "They overwhelmed us with their speed and power," said Ferguson, adding, "but our players are better for the experience. They are not afraid of anything.
"It is a bonus to have Keane back. He's a big game player. He raises himself for these games. He has everything, He's quick and aggressive and he passes to our men." United's passing could be the key. They need to deprive Juventus of the ball while striving to maintain a high tempo of their own.
Nearly 200 media will be present including the current coaches of England and Australia. There will also be two former Juventus players, the legendary John Charles and, interestingly, Fabrizio Ravanelli, of Middlesbrough.
If United sign Ravanelli, as Italian newspapers insist they will, he would be available for the knock-out stages. If United get there. We are told he will be cheering for Juventus tonight - but will he secretly be hoping United also progress?
Manchester United (probable): Schmeichel; G Neville, May, Johnsen, P Neville; Beckham, Keane, Butt, Giggs; Cantona, Solskjaer.
Juventus (probable): Peruzzi; Torricelli, Ferrara, Montero, Porrini; De Livio, Deschamps, Zidane, Jugovic; Boksic, Del Piero.
Referee: J Encinar (Spain).Reuse content