Preview: SC Braga v United

There are few more atmospheric stadia than Estádio Municipal, Braga, carved as it is into the face of Monte Castro quarry. Three sides every bit a tight, sometimes intimidating venue; the other sheer rock with an almost tragi-comic large screen perched into the cliff face. Still, there is no more picturesque place at which to secure qualification for the Champions League knock-out stages – an achievement that Manchester United is seeking at SC Braga in Portugal on Wednesday night.

With nine points from three victories to date, albeit from only marginally impressive performances, United could progress with just a point on Wednesday night. That, however, is a result unlikely to impress manager Sir Alex Ferguson, with the 70-year-old Scot bent on securing top spot in group X. After United’s failure to qualify last season Ferguson’s over-compensation is the least reaction Reds could expect.

Still, Ferguson will make several changes to the side that beat Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday in preparation for the weekend fixture with Aston Villa. It is a familiar story in Europe, but unlike last season’s competition United has largely circumvented punishment for rotating the squad in the group stages.

“I’ll be making some changes for Wednesday, no doubt about that,” confirmed Ferguson on Tuesday.

“Obviously we want to win on Wednesday. If we get a win, that’s better as we want to make sure we qualify first. If we win, we’re through to the next phase and that’s the most important part. Braga have a good record at home, but I think we can get the win.

“The most important thing is to go through. In order to win the Champions League we have to play at a really high level. Real and Barcelona are the main contenders, and Borussia’s also one of them. I hope we can be together with them as well.”

Ferguson, however, will still be without injured defensive duo Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidić, while Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes have been left in Manchester to rest. H

SC Braga v Manchester United – Champions League, Estádio Municipal – Wednesday 7 November 2012, 7.45pmHowever, Chris Smalling is now back in full-time training and traveled with the squad to Portugal. The 22-year-old in unlikely to start after missing the opening three months of the season with a broken metatarsal, but may feature at some point.

“Fletcher got a little bit of a cold on Sunday, and there’s no point taking him travelling with a cold,” explained Ferguson. “Scholesy, for the last few games I’ve been resting him to freshen him up a little bit. I’m just taking care of an old man, that’s all!

“Phil Jones will start training with us next Monday which is good news – he is making really good progress now. Chris Smalling is with the party and will be involved tomorrow. Those two are outstanding young defenders and it will give us a fantastic squad to take on all our challenges

“That is really good news because as we know, since the start of the season, we’ve been operating on the borderline in terms of certain defenders having to play all the time.”

The Scot is likely to bring Anders Lindegaard back into goal for David de Gea, while Nani, Anderson, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernández will all hope to see some action in Portugal’s third city.

Meanwhile, Braga will feel confident of taking something from the game after going two goals up at Old Trafford last month. The Portuguese outfit, which reached the Europa League final last season, eventually succumbed to United’s second-half pressure, but not without testing the Reds’ porous defence first.

Braga coach José Peseiro is without Paulo Vinícius and Paulo César who are both unavailable with thigh injuries, although Douglão returned to action at the weekend and could start.

“We need to have some possession but must not attack too hard,” concedes Peseiro.

“It’s not even worth thinking that we can crush United. We showed we could cause them some problems in the first game. The way we switch from defence to attack is very important, but the most important thing is to be consistent.

“Even if they change their lineup, their team is top quality because they have more than one good player in every position. If they win tomorrow, they’ll qualify for the next phase, so we know what’s in their minds.”

Indeed, qualification a day after Ferguson celebrated his 26th year in charge of United will be all the present the Scot needs. In a ceremony at Old Trafford later this month Ferguson will be presented, in his honour, the latest statue erected at the old stadium.

The Scot replaced Ron Atkinson at Old Trafford in November 1986, ending United’s 26 year wait for a league title in 1993. Five FA Cups, four league cups and 11 more championships have followed.

How Ferguson would love to add just one more European title to the two Champions Leagues he has already won in what could yet be his final season in charge.

Match Details
SC Braga v Manchester United – Champions League, Estádio Municipal – Wednesday 7 November 2012, 7.45pm

Possible teams
Braga (4-4-2): Beto; Baiano, Coelho, Dougão, Elderson; Custódio, Viana, Mossoró, Barbosa; Zé Luís, Éder. Subs from: Quim, Micael, Amorim, , Capela, Micael, Djamal, Alan, Custódio, Guilherme, Michel, Carlão.

United (4-2-3-1): Lindegaard; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Buttner; Anderson, Carrick; Nani, Rooney, Welbeck; Hernández. Subs from: De Gea, Smalling, Evra, Cleverley, Giggs, Nani, Valencia, Powell, Young, van Persie.

Officials (all GER)
Referee Felix Brych
Assistant referees Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp
Additional assistant referees Felix Zwayer, Guido Winkmann
Fourth official Mike Pickel

United: WWWWLW

Head to Head
Overall: Braga 0, United 1, Draw 0


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  1. AnantaxAnantax says

    I think we’ve improved since then. I thought Rio played well last few weeks. Not yet confident of clean sheet though.

    3-1 United

  2. machedinho says

    This is my team for tonight. DDG, Rafael,Smalling, Evans, Buttner(has a lot to prove) Nani, Cleverley, Anderson, Young, Rooney, RvP

  3. machedinho says

    Carrick + rio prob need a rest so I’d rest them both tonight for Villa away. Carrick will probably play but I’d love to see Cleverley and Anderson start together. Giggs could also start but if he does I hope its on the left wing.

  4. machedinho says

    Nani will be key tonight, if he starts. Wipping in delicious crosses for rooney and RvP or Hernandez if he starts. Something Valencia can’t see to do. Needs a couple lessons from becks imo.

  5. says

    Fletcher is full of cold and Scholes is getting a rest

    I’d suggest


    Raphael Evans Rio Buttner

    Cleverley Carrick Anderson

    Nani Hernandez Welbeck

    Should be able to give Braga a good game. Carrick would sit, and Ando / Clevs to go and play. Nani, Welbeck, Hernandez, provide movement and pace up top.

  6. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    been ages since we had one of them euro away games where we play 451, get outplayed, carrick plays shite, we then throw on strikers after an hour and nick a 1-0

  7. marlon says

    De Gea
    Valencia Smalling Evans Evra

    Down as a diamond on the official teamsheet.

  8. says

    Who is going to anchor that midfield tonight? It will make Anderson look bad if he is asked to do that. We have sent out a team away in Europe with not ONE recognised tackler outside of the natural four defenders. That is incredible.

  9. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    this is more like it, absolute dross, , mess of a team, second best against european nobodies, we’ll change it on 65 mins and persie will score

  10. han says

    Anantax said:
    Funny from skysports For explanation on the power outage….” did Fergie leave the hairdryer on?”

    by the complacent attitude of the united players on the pitch, looks like he forgot it in manchester

  11. AnantaxAnantax says

    Anantax said:
    I think we’ve improved since then. I thought Rio played well last few weeks. Not yet confident of clean sheet though.

    3-1 United

    Getting better at this prediction thingie!

  12. AnantaxAnantax says

    Nani went out of the game, United’s attack suddenly got better and we scored 3 goals…Hes taaented and I really root for him to get better, but he’s just not getting better.
    Nani was ineffective and wasteful. Anderson was slightly better but was ineffective for most of the game. Giggs came alive in the last 5 mins….

  13. han says

    how many times have we come back from being at least a goal down this season…amazing really when last season we looked clueless after going behind

  14. baloobaloo says

    Nani just needs to go – he needs to be the big fish in a little pond and he’s not, he’s one of many and when he has to graft and put in a shift, or play for his place and make the manager sit up and demand him to pick him – can’t hack it. All this ‘potentially world class’ and ‘x-factory’ talk is just bollocks. Matt Le Tissier did just as much ‘x-factory’ stuff as Nani – would you have him in your team over Valencia? Not a fucking chance.

    If you can get the money, get rid

  15. says

    Have no idea how we won that game 3-1. It had nil nil written all over it until their ridiculous penalty. Then we did not look like we could score until their keeper had a brain fart after Anderson’s quick free-kick had helped release van Persie. Absolutely strange match. Braga were petrified of us in all honesty.

    I hope Jonny is not out for long. Thank God Smalling is back. One headed clearance as Braga tried to come back showed what we have been missing – pace, power and bravery. I like him.

  16. Leif Sward says

    We have certainly ridden our luck this year. A terrible game in all truth.

    We had absolutely no shape and no-one seemed to have a clue what they were doing. I don’t know if that is an excuse for Nani and Anderson’s performances or whether they were just plain awful. I’ve always really believed that those two would come good but last night I realised that they really need to move on now.

  17. marlon says

    Looked a bit lost without Carrick last night. I don’t think Anderson and Nani were particularly worse than anyone else (pre lights out).

    We tried a 433 and we definitely missed having a player ‘in the hole’ as it made us very predictable in attack. If we had Rooney or van Persie up front it might have worked better. Having Giggs as a DLP makes sense, but Rooney was wasted as a shuttler and neither he nor Anderson really understood the role. It’s understandable for Fergie to want to use a 433 in Europe, but firstly, it restricts us to just 3 attacking players and secondly, with almost every team playing a 4231 in Europe, we don’t have to be worried about being outnumbered in midfield. Of the 3 (major) teams that have used a 433, two use a deep forward (ajax-erikson and barca-messi) and the other (porto) use it as their primary formation and are very comfortable using it. We are capable but 4231 makes more sense with our players.

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