Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lyon v United preview: It is time for United and Fergie to deliver....

Ahead of United's massive Champions League away tie with Lyon, Fergie has been lavishing praise on Ryan Giggs who is set for his 100th European game for the Red Devils; it's a remarkable achievement for Giggsy. The former Welsh international has had some great games for United in the Champions League, scoring some very important goals down the years. However, like Paul Scholes, he has also had some games to forget in the latter stages of the competition.

United fans won’t need reminding that the Reds Champions League record is largely one of under achievement. On too many previous occasions United have let themselves down badly when losing to the likes of: Porto (2004); Bayer Leverkusen (2002); Monaco (1998); Dortmund (1997) and Galatasaray (1994); The results of those ties will forever be a stain on Ferguson's European record, no matter even if he goes on to win the trophy before he eventually retires, because without exception United should have won those ties.

As for Lyon, United go into the game on the back of a thumping victory over rivals Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend and that confidence boosting performance against the Gunners was just what the Reds needed ahead of arguably their biggest test to date this season.

Lyon have several players who can hurt United, including their captain Juninho from free-kicks, but most notably Karim Benzema who has been attracting interest from Fergie and many other leading managers around Europe. Hatem Ben Arfa is another who has been linked to the Reds recently.

Many United fans believe that one of the major factors behind the Reds failings in the Champions League is Ferguson's lack of tactical nouse. And once again, it remains to be seen what the manager will do this evening where tactics and selection issues are concerned. Will Fergie play with just Rooney up front as he did against Arsenal? Will the manager sacrifice the legs of Hargreaves or Anderson for the football brain of Scholes? If Tevez, Giggs and Nani are left on the bench, there is the option of including Anderson, Hargreaves and Scholes with Rooney being supported by the likes of Ronaldo, Scholes and Anderson. Given United's devil may care attacking traditions, it is vital that United do not leave themselves wide open to the counter-attack and therefore surely Hargreaves must start this match.

Fergie has many options, but it is vital that he gets it right, because like in so many recent seasons the Champions League is there to be won and United, at least on paper, have as good a chance as any of the remaining clubs. It is time to deliver...

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