Rooney out for Ajax return as Pogba waits in wings

Manchester United takes a two goal advantage into Thursday’s Europa League tie with Ajax at Old Trafford – a lead that Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to exploit by rotating his playing resources for the round of 32 tie. The United manager, Wednesday, took the unusual step of naming half his team for the game with the Dutch giants as Ferguson looks to ensure his men are fit and fresh for the Premier League matches to come. United faces Norwich City at Carrow Road less than 60 hours after concluding the tie with Ajax.

Changing up the United team is, of course, par for the course, for Ferguson, in Europe this season. Indeed, it is a factor many supporters point to in United’s failure to beat Benfica and FC Basel at Old Trafford in the autumn. Damaging draws with the pair at home left United in third place and out of the Champions League.

More pertinent is the sense that English teams, including United, have regressed this season. But, says the United manager, failure is not down to decline in his team, but to a temporary ‘blip’ in form. Some may question the logic, the day after United’s accounts showed that £225 million has been spent on debt buy back and interest payments in the past two years.

“Success in Europe can sometimes go in cycles,” Ferguson argued on Wednesday.

“Spain had a great cycle about 10 years ago when Valencia, Deportivo la Coruna, Villarreal, Real Madrid and Barcelona were all dominant. We’ve had a great cycle in the Premier League for the eight years with teams getting to semi-finals and finals. I don’t see that subsiding. I think the English teams will continue to be dominant.

“We’ve had a bad year this year — United have in particular — but with Arsenal and Chelsea, disappointing results though they’ve had, both clubs have had injury problems and you cannot expect them to get the best results without their best teams. It has maybe been a disappointing season, but to my mind, it’s not definite that we’re on the slide.”

Meanwhile, the Scot will be without key striker Wayne Rooney, who has missed much of United’s preparation this week with a sore throat. The striker could return for United’s visit to Norwich City on Sunday. Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia, along with long-term injured Nemanja Vidi&cacute, Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Michael Owen, miss out on Ajax’ first visit to Old Trafford since 1976.

Tom Cleverley, who is certain to start, may play his first 90 minutes since September as the 22-year-old midfielder continues his recovered from ankle injury. Meanwhile, Ferguson name-checked teenager Paul Pogba in his pre-match press conference, although the French midfielder is unlikely to start at Old Trafford. Pogba is subject of ongoing contract speculation, with Ferguson now using Rio Ferdinand as a conduit into the 18-year-old midfielder.

“Wayne is out tomorrow,” confirmed Ferguson.

“He has a really bad throat. There were traces of it in Amsterdam and we gave him some medication but it got worse. He has been in bed over the weekend and came in today for the first time and we are trying hard to get him right for Sunday.

“It is possible we could give Pogba a run-out. It depends because there are a lot of players who need a game; Nani, Young, Hernandez, Cleverley, Smalling, Jones. Those players will all play tomorrow and we hope to put a sprinkling of experience amongst it.

“Hopefully Tom will play a full game tomorrow. He’s back and it’s good to have him back. He gives us more ammunition in the midfield area, which was an area some people were worried about. Anderson’s back training with the first-team now as well.”

The Dutch side, comfortably beaten by United in Amsterdam last week, emerged victorious over NEC Nijmegen at the weekend – a 4-1 victory that brought merciful relief to a club that has suffered both on and off the pitch this season. Ajax scored three inside half an hour, with Dmitry Bulykin, unimpressive against United, hitting a brace. It is a result that will offer Frank de Boer’s troops at least some hope of turning the tie with United around on Thursday night.

Manchester United versus Ajax, Europa League, Old Trafford, 23 February 2012For United, the fixture represents another opportunity to progress from an injury crisis that at times has claimed 11 names this season. With Anderson also back in training, Ferguson’s squad is at its most complete since the opening fixture of the season.

Meanwhile for key midfielder Cleverley the game represents another step on the road to full recovery in a frustrating season. Cleverley forced his way into both the United and England sides at the beginning of the season, only to be struck with the third serious – and long-term – injury of a short career.

“It’s good to be back,” said Cleverley on Wednesday, whose return to fitness comes at an opportune time for both club and country.

“It’s massively frustrating to be out for that length of time but I’m back now I’m fresh, I’m 100 percent and looking forward to the end of the season. I’m just working hard, trying to keep fit and I’m excited for the end of the season. I’m just concentrating on tomorrow night and then Sunday, for my club. If I can get into some good form between now and the end of the season, I’d be more than happy to be involved in the European Championship this summer.”

Elsewhere, Ferguson is likely to rest 37-year-old Paul Scholes, although Ryan Giggs may come back into contention for his 900th United appearance after sitting out the first leg in Amsterdam.

“Being in the Premier League as long as he has and having achieved what he has, I don’t think any other player will do that,” the United manager added of Giggs’ longevity.

“It’s amazing. When you look back to [the 2008 Champions League Final in] Moscow when he beat Bobby Charlton’s [appearance] record that night, you are talking about almost 100 games since then. It’s phenomenal. He keeps defying his age and this season he has just been the same as he was back in Moscow. His performance level, then to today, nothing has changed. He’s just amazing.”

Meanwhile, de Boer’s side arrives in better form than of late, yet boasting a record of three defeats in the past six matches. de Boer will be without Danish youngster Nicolai Boilesen, who suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in the first leg. Theo Janssen and Bulykin are also doubts for the Europa League encounter.

However, de Boer can take positives from the way Ajax restricted United during the first half last week – a performance that drew criticism of his own side from Ferguson – and praise from the Dutch coach.

“The first half was played exactly how we want to see it,” said de Boer.

“Our organisation was good and we put pressure at the right moments. Of course United posed threats, but we had a good Kenneth Vermeer to answer them. We need to be realistic for the return – we’re going for 0-3! It will be a match to build some experience with. We’ll play our own game and not dig our heels in.

“We are not here just to see the scenery and we will see after the game what the result is. We will try to make life difficult for United – overall, it is a great opportunity for our players to play this game. There were some positives from the match in Holland and we want to repeat those things here.”

It could make for an open and attractive encounter.

Match facts
Manchester United versus Ajax, Europa League, Old Trafford, Thursday 23 February 2012, 8.05pm.

Possible teams
Ajax (4-3-3): Vermeer; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Anita, Koppers; Aissati, Eriksen, S. De Jong; Lodeiro, Özbiliz, Sulejmani. Subs from: Enoh, Blind, Cillessen, Ebicilio, Lukoki, Van Rhijn, Denswil, Veltman, Klaassen, Ligeon.

United (4-4-2): De Gea; Jones, Evans, Smalling, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Cleverley, Young; Welbeck, Hernández. Subs from: Amos, Fabio, Rafael, Fryers, Ferdinand, Park, Pogba, Berbatov.

Form
Ajax: DLLWLW
United: WLWDWW

Officials
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovakia)
Assistant referees: Primož Arhar, Matej Žunič
Additional assistant referees: Matej Jug, Slavko Vinčić

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Comments

  1. stan says

    line up

    de gea
    rafael smalling evans fabio
    carrick jones giggs
    nani hernandez young

    utd draw and united rant complain about lack of funds given by the glazers and how we should try more to boycott utd.

    also ed could you change the main title pic, its dull and makes me sick. thanks

    • redevil_83 says

      Yup. agree with your line up 4-3-3 except that cleverley will certainly start most probably in place of jones who may play RB. hope to see berba get some pitch time also.

  2. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    line up

    de gea
    rafael smalling evans fabio
    carrick jones giggs
    nani hernandez young

    utd draw and united rant complain about lack of funds given by the glazers and how we should try more to boycott utd.

    also ed could you change the main title pic, its dull and makes me sick. thanks

    Plank!

  3. manutd50 says

    It’s one of them games where you hope the opposing team scores first to make it a bit more interesting – am I right lads?

  4. ghost says

    De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Fabio; Nani, Park, Cleverley, Young; Berbatov, Hernandez.

    Subs: Amos, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Giggs, Scholes, Welbeck

  5. Sidsidney says

    In other news I hear rumours that the fascist muppets of the EDL are all over Manchester looking for Ajax fans to beat up because a while ago Ajax’s anti-fascist/anti-racist mob literally chased the EDL out of Amsterdam with sticks and bats when a few English lionhearts went over there to show solidarity with that massive cunt, Geert Wilders

  6. dozer says

    If Pogba’s stalling his contract over game time then Fergie shouldn’t give him an oppurtunity now even if he deserves it IMO.
    This will just open a can of worms, other youngsters who’re 18 and under will soon start stalling.

    Let him sign a contract, once United have long term visibility they can give him that valuable game time, which now can be better used someone else considering his situation.
    He’s 18 ffs, let him wait.

  7. DeadRevel says

    No Pogba… looking bleak on that front. Tbh he’s a cocky arrogant cunt if he leaves at his age.

    That is an attacking line up. I’ve looked forward to seeing De Gea, Rafael , Smalling, Jones and Fabio in action. Future total football defence. :D

  8. Gabagool says

    Pogba must be on the way out if he’s not getting a jersey tonight. Hopefully he’s just injured, would like to see him stay.
    1-0 chicharito, this could be a procession.

  9. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Rafa… horrible dive… should have been booked for that nonsense.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  10. says

    That’s what I was hoping we’d do – get on the ball, slow the game down, and control it. However, we’ve been bombing forward and playing some relatively nice stuff admittedly, but we really need to calm this game down and dominate it.

  11. says

    Berbatov has been playing great but still, frustratingly, he’ll do something fancy and look like a complete bellend. Good first half though, ahead on aggregate, just need to be a little more controlled in the 2nd half and keep the ball more

  12. DeadRevel says

    If we had Carrick or Scholes instead of Park we’d be controlling it. Though tbf Park is playing well, just not the same role.

  13. Sidsidney says

    When Cleverley plays we’re open

    He’s having a good game though, dropping deep and picking it up

    Sometimes he just needs to stop and hold rather than go forward

  14. bman says

    We’re being outplayed and out sung right now. Great save by De Gea, and it’s nice to seem him blocking the back line.

  15. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Scholes needs to get himself together… we need him to put some composure to our passing… very sloppy right now.

  16. han says

    shit bollocks cunts
    this OT crowd is a right bunch of muppets
    ajax played out of their skins and we looked clueless most of that game after we scored
    awful way to proceed in this competition
    athletic bilboa will not be worried by that display

  17. DeadRevel says

    Poor in second half… but no need for some of the comments on here.
    Bilbao are less of a team than Ajax and we’ll do enough to get through again.

    Don’t know why Fergie took off Berba though. Much better than Hernandez at holding the ball up and keeping possession.

    Also Nani was mostly wank.

  18. DeadRevel says

    We did play some good football, especially Berba and the twins.
    But no Carrick, Scholes or a match fit Cleverley and an ‘exuberant’ back 4 shall we say and it’s always going to be a rollercoaster of a game.

  19. sheesh says

    sidney said:
    Ajax fans are class

    Their singing about Suarez was not on. I don’t care if he is a former player or not. That was rather small-time of them.
    Young was shite again.

  20. DeadRevel says

    Slightly worried by SAF blaming the ‘kids’ though. Rafael and Fabio are our in form fullbacks. Smalling is class and De Gea is in great form. Jones maybe a bit too attack minded but I wouldn’t say it was a defensive disaster. More the fact we didn’t have a midfield. I wonder if SAF is trying to cover this up?

    Never mind. Carrick, Clev and Scholes in midfield next time. Bilbao won’t touch the ball.

  21. DeadRevel says

    Oh and if we had Valencia and Carrick playing instead of Nani and Park we would have steamrollered them tonight. No doubt.

  22. says

    I think you’ve maybe got the message mixed up there, Dead, I think he’s saying he was culpable for letting all four of them get unleashed against a half decent Ajax side who can at least keep the ball

    Really should have been Carrick / Clevs in midfield tonight starting to control the game a little bit more.

    I wouldn’t have minded Jones / Clevs or Carrick, mind, to press them a little more.

    It was a wank performance – Young / Nani take a bow for being especially dross – but positives from the first half in Berbatov and Hernandez, and a quality night for De Gea who saved our arses again.

    • DeadRevel says

      Yeah I know. But the fact is Evra, as much as I love him, has been pretty poor for a long time and made a lot of mistakes. I don’t think him being on the pitch would have helped things, not even his ‘experience’. And apart from Evra who do we have? Vidic is injured, that leaves Rio and Evans.
      Basically I don’t think the back 4 could have been improved too much though I take your point.

      I agree about Jones though… maybe stick Rio or Evans at CB and shift Jones to midfield instead of Park.

      What I’m worried about most of all is that SAF might chicken out and decide that back 5 isn’t the future. And if he decides that, I will have to reconsider my faith in the manager.

      The twins were class tonight.

  23. Sidsidney says

    sheesh said:
    Their singing about Suarez was not on. I don’t care if he is a former player or not. That was rather small-time of them.

    Young was shite again.

    Yeah, for a left leaning club with a strong anti-fascist following that was poor, but it got a rise out of United fans

    We had the racist bastard chant, then you scouse bastards

    Class

  24. sheesh says

    ltel said:
    i get the feeling hes gonna go.. no other reason why he wouldnt be in squad unless hes injured….

    Yeah, I’m beginning to have that same feeling as well.

  25. Sidsidney says

    SAF: “I accept responsibility tonight for playing so many young players in defence. It created a problem for us, but we survived.”

    • DeadRevel says

      Well in his conference when asked whether Pogba would stay, he replied “It’s possible.”

      To me that sounds like it’s far more likely Pogba is off.

  26. sheesh says

    sidney said:
    SAF: “I accept responsibility tonight for playing so many young players in defence. It created a problem for us, but we survived.”

    The average age of the Ajax team tonight was 22. Ours was 24. Age doesn’t come into it and it’s not like we were playing inexperienced kids. How much European experience have we got?

    • DeadRevel says

      The Ajax team play together frequently though, that’s the difference.
      This game was good for our kids, not a mistake. They need to get used to playing together.
      Still maintain that it was our midfield that cost us today, not the defence. Young, Park and Nani are poor, Clev not sharp yet.

  27. han says

    sheesh said:
    The average age of the Ajax team tonight was 22. Ours was 24. Age doesn’t come into it and it’s not like we were playing inexperienced kids. How much European experience have we got?

    well it wasn’t down to the kids as SAF puts it – ajax were class at keeping the ball, controlled the middle and but for their poor finishing, would have knocked us out tonight
    you still annoyed we scraped through sheesh?

  28. sheesh says

    han said:
    well it wasn’t down to the kids as SAF puts it – ajax were class at keeping the ball, controlled the middle and but for their poor finishing, would have knocked us out tonight
    you still annoyed we scraped through sheesh?

    For so long as we have a realistic shot at winning the league, I’ll be annoyed that we are participating in this third-rate European tournament.
    Losing Valencia last week was a complete pain in the arse. There are more games to follow and who knows who else will end up getting injured?
    We normally struggle in domestic matches immediately following Champions League games as it is and I think the Norwich game will be a tough one. How we perform on Sunday after putting in such a poor second half tonight will be interesting to see.

  29. Goddess says

    Nobody seems to care that we’ve lost at home in Europe! This doesn’t happen to Man U !! That performance showed no heart, that would not have happened in the past. That performance meant nothing to them players and for me that’s unacceptable!!!

  30. 19 and Counting says

    I wonder what we’d be saying if Ajax had grabbed a 3rd goal. Anyways, we’re through but yet another bad performance at home. What has happened to our home form?

    In terms of Pogba, the writing is on the wall – he wasn’t even on the bench. Sad…

  31. Brown man says

    Dreadful show last night – Bilbao must be laughing. Foot off pedal in a big way once we went ahead.
    Pogba is one of the next batch of Fergie Fledglings – if he follows Morrison out we won’t see any more great teams being built for a long time.

  32. 19 and Counting says

    Commenter said:
    Nobody seems to care that we’ve lost at home in Europe! This doesn’t happen to Man U !! That performance showed no heart, that would not have happened in the past. That performance meant nothing to them players and for me that’s unacceptable!!!

    I care goddess! Our home form has been shocking at times this season, both in Europe and in the league. And as was the case against Basel and Benfica, we couldn’t hold a lead – at home – and suffer. Luckily, we did enough in the first leg or we’d be out of this competition too.

  33. says

    I blame the manager not for the defence but for allowing us to keep two in central midfield after seeing how many bodies Ajax had in there throughout the match. It was amazing. Park and Cleverly did not get a kick. Mind you, I have never been a huge fan of Tom as I think his great press is baseless really. However, he and the Korean were overrun and we had to be going long all the time. If Rooney had played he would have had enough energy to drop in and help but with the lazy arse Bulgarian the others had no chance. I could not understand it. It was so plain to see. I keep saying it that no top side in the world plays a two man central midfield except us and we keep getting caned all the time we do it.

    Now a much bigger issue: When Patrice Evra or Ryan Giggs are not available we have no natural left footer and we struggle big time. Ashley Young is a joke. Watch how he receives a pass from his full back – never in a body position to progress. NEVER. He kills the move stone dead by either passing back to whence the ball came or tries something in field. last night, cause we were outnumbered in central midfield he was always going back to young Fabio. Ridiculous.Fabio another natural right footer goes infield with the ball back into the crowd were we have no options. Are there no left footers available for us to buy or train? Where was young Fryers? He should have started since Evra was not playing.

    I was not amused last night at all. If Pogba is not going to get a game then he might as well leave. No point in marking time when he can go and get experience.

    • DeadRevel says

      Everything you wrote then apart from the bit about having two in midfield against Ajax was bollocks.
      Cleverley is great but has just come back from a long injury, Fabio is our best left back by some distance based on talent / form. Berba played well last night considering we had no midfield.

      Also, Pogba is a greedy cunt if he thinks he has the right to play hardball at his age for a new contract. And Fryers, allegedly, is doing the same.

      Can’t believe how many people on here are worried about Bilbao. They are 5th in La Liga and only 5 pts separates them from the relegation zone.

  34. says

    Cal – I agree on Young. His first instinct is always to come inside and, sadly, he did slow us down too many times when a counter was available. We do need a naturally left footed winger but, frankly, there aren’t many out there who are at the class we need.

    In the English league it’s actually favourable to play a 4 – 4 – 2 in my opinion. United have enough class to impose our will on the majority of sides in the league and force them backwards with slick overloading play from fullbacks and with roaming waspish striker (Rooney) or a drifting playmaker cum striker (Berbatov) with pace in front of them (Hernandez and Welbeck) to cause chaos in the opposition’s back and midfield lines – they get stretched, overrun, and out of place by the movement.

    We simply don’t have the personnel to go 4 – 3 – 3 / 4 – 5 – 1 anymore. Valencia wouldn’t suit the inside right position, Nani remains inconsistent and in my humble opinion somewhat lacking in decision making to effectively play that position. Young would probably be better suited to inside left than outside left / left wing but that would only really work if Evra consistently overloaded.

    Clevs / Carrick / Jones is the only combination I’d trust to pull off a mobile, accurate and muscular enough approach to a three man midfield. Carrick to sit in the middle, Jones deep and drive on, and Clevs to float trying to make the play. Anderson is too inconsistent, Giggs / Scholes lacking in mobility, to make a 3 work with any other combination. Arguably you could swap Scholes for Carrick, or Giggs / Anderson for Clevs, but again from my view I think Cleverley / Carrick / Jones provides the right balance.

  35. Sidsidney says

    Cleverley injured apparently, ankle

    They’re gonna pull him out of the England squad… but he’s travelling to Norwich

  36. Leif Sward says

    Can someone explain to me why Hernandez plays deeper than Berbatov? The United goal showed what that pairing could and should be about – Berbatov’s class on the ball putting Hernandez straight through on goal. After that the lazy twat thought his work was done and left the running to everyone else. And another thing…..at least when Hernandez gets flagged offside its because he is trying to get in behind, Berbatov is always offside because he can’t be bothered getting back onside.

  37. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    have we ever not lost with park in midfield

    even when we’re drawing and he’s moved in there we immediately concede an then lose, see the cl final n arsenal away last year

    but no its a great option cause he gives his all and has experience

  38. says

    DeadRevel,
    you need to read and understand before you start throwing words. I did not at anytime criticise Fabio’s defending. He and his brother are fantastic defenders and I back them against any forward anytime in this world. However, Fabio is ALSO right footed which was the point I was trying to make.
    People underestimate the importance of having a left footer. City can start with THREE in most games and have the choice of Clichy and Kolarov for the left back positions – both rubbish defenders mind you but they give their game a balance that we lack when Evra or Giggs are not available. What is wrong with Fryers? He needs to be involved much more than he is currently.

    Park and Cleverly was a rubbish decision and was doomed to fail. Who won the ball? Who ran with the ball? Foolishness at the extreme.

    Ben, any of the combo you described will do a job for us. We will not be outnumbered in midfield and Carrick can also ping balls about. Jones can throw his weight around.

  39. says

    This might not be that popular, but if Pogba isn’t totally committed to United let him go. Those kind of selfish players ruin a dressing room and at this point he’s done very little to date. If establishes himself and performs he’ll get paid just like Cleverley and Welbeck. The players have enough power at the moment anyway. I’d much rather see Ryan Tunnicliffe come through, he’s a Manc lad, has the right attitude and is learning out on loan.

  40. 19 and Counting says

    Bill said:
    This might not be that popular, but if Pogba isn’t totally committed to United let him go. Those kind of selfish players ruin a dressing room and at this point he’s done very little to date. If establishes himself and performs he’ll get paid just like Cleverley and Welbeck. The players have enough power at the moment anyway. I’d much rather see Ryan Tunnicliffe come through, he’s a Manc lad, has the right attitude and is learning out on loan.

    Come on, Pogba is 18 – talented perhaps – but he’ll get his chance in the future if he’s as good as we hear he is. He isn’t going to get much more playing time at a club like Juventus so I hope he decides to stay. But Fergie knows best, right?
    Totally agree about Tunnicliffe. He looks a great United player in the making.

  41. says

    Fergie knows how to handle these situations as you say. The likes of Morrison and Pogba have to realise that if they show the right attitude and play well they will get picked more often and get paid. Going out on loan is the first step. Agents are probably the root of alot of this to be fair.

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