Champions League

United bid to beat Benfica

2011-11-21 10:48
Alex Ferguson (File)
Manchester - Manchester United will attempt to end Benfica's unbeaten start to the season on Tuesday as the English club bid to book their place in the Champions League knockout phase.

The English and Portuguese giants play out the latest instalment of a decades-old rivalry at Old Trafford knowing that a win for either side will almost certainly assure them of topping Group C.

United had to come from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw in the two teams' meeting in Lisbon earlier in the group, and Benfica remain unbeaten in 20 matches across all competitions this year.

United, who famously defeated Benfica at Wembley in 1968 to win their first European crown, head into the tie on the back of five straight victories.

Significantly, those five wins have all been matched by five cleansheets, a fact that signals United's defence is on the mend after being torn apart by Manchester City last month.

"Keeping clean sheets has been an integral part of our success and we have been careless with our defending," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said after watching his team score a 1-0 victory over Swansea last weekend.

Ferguson said the win over Swansea reflected a focus that had been missing from United's early games this season.

"The concentration we showed is exactly the concentration we need back in the team," he said.

While United's defence is causing him fewer sleepless nights, it remains to be seen how Ferguson will set up his midfield against Benfica.

Against Romanian side Otelul Galati earlier this month, Ferguson used Wayne Rooney as a central midfielder to great effect.

Yet while Rooney won plaudits for his performance, it merely served to underscore United's lack of a genuine creative presence capable of running the game from midfield.

According to Scottish international Darren Fletcher, United are doomed to failure in their attempts to find a midfielder capable of replacing the now retired Paul Scholes.

"We can't replace Paul Scholes, it is as simple as that," Fletcher said. "If there was someone I am sure he would be here.

"You are talking about one of the best players ever to play for Manchester United."

Ferguson will instead have to perm the core of his midfield from Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung and Fletcher.

Fletcher believes, however, United have enough quality in attack to trouble the best sides.

"As midfielders we know what our job is and how we affect games," he said.

"Maybe we are not noticed but we have quality players in advanced positions. Our job is to supply them."

Another possible midfield option for Ferguson is teenage signing Phil Jones, who has impressed since signing from Blackburn for 17 million in the summer.

Jones played a defensive midfield role for England in recent friendly victories over Spain and Sweden, and Fletcher is unsurprised by the 19-year-old's meteoric rise through the ranks.

"He has done fantastic and shown what a real quality player he is," said Fletcher.

"He has performed fantastically at full-back and watching the two England games he did really well in them as well.

"He has shown real quality and proved why the manager snapped him up."

NEXT ON SPORT24X

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
  • Blitz
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @00:00
  • SS1
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @01:00
  • SS2
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @02:00
  • SS3
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @03:00
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

 

South African woman learns to surf at aged 70

Anthea Petzer just wants to learn how to stand on her yellow Australian surfboard and carve up the waves.

 
 

Outdoor

Extreme Kiteboarding in Pumping Conditions!
The Arctic becomes an unlikely surfing hotspot
A romantic holiday to beat the winter blues
Why should you do a 5k?
Fixtures
03 May 2016
FC Bayern Munchen v Atletico de Madrid, Allianz Arena 20:45
04 May 2016
Real Madrid v Manchester City, Santiago Bernabeu 20:45
28 May 2016
Winner Semifinal 1 v Winner Semifinal 2, Giuseppe Meazza 20:45
Logs
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

Who will be the 2015/16 Champions League top scorer?

 
 
/News
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

SuperBru Super Rugby challenge

Enter and challenge Sport24's staff!

Featured

As the Absa Premiership nears the Christmas break, a little over half the season remains. Who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Which teams will be relegated? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.