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
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

 

Get fit on a budget

It’s time to throw the “I can’t afford to exercise” excuse out the window.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips for paddling your first Dusi
Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route
Fixtures
04 November 2014
Zenit St Petersburg v Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Petrovski Stadium 19:00
Arsenal v RSC Anderlecht, Emirates Stadium 21:45
Benfica v Monaco, Estadio da Luz 21:45
Juventus v Olympiakos, Juventus Stadium 21:45
Real Madrid v Liverpool, Santiago Bernabéu 21:45
Borussia Dortmund v Galatasaray, Signal Iduna Park 21:45
FC Basel v Ludogorets Razgrad, St Jakob-Park 21:45
Malmö FF v Atlético de Madrid, Swedbank Stadion 21:45
05 November 2014
FC Bayern München v Roma, Allianz Arena 21:45
Ajax v Barcelona, Amsterdam ArenA 21:45
Shakhtar Donetsk v BATE Borisov, Arena Lviv 21:45
Sporting Lisbon v FC Schalke 04, Estadio José Alvalade 21:45
Manchester City v CSKA Moscow, Etihad Stadium 21:45
NK Maribor v Chelsea, Ljudski Vrt 21:45
Paris Saint Germain v APOEL Nicosia, Parc des Princes 21:45
Athletic Club v FC Porto, San Mamés 21:45
25 November 2014
CSKA Moscow v Roma, Arena Khimki 19:00
BATE Borisov v FC Porto, Borisov Arena 19:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Athletic Club, Arena Lviv 21:45
Sporting Lisbon v NK Maribor, Estadio José Alvalade 21:45
Manchester City v FC Bayern München, Etihad Stadium 21:45
APOEL Nicosia v Barcelona, GSP Stadium 21:45
Paris Saint Germain v Ajax, Parc des Princes 21:45
FC Schalke 04 v Chelsea, VELTINS-Arena 21:45
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

Which team will win the 2013/14 Champions League title?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

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

Featured

Got something you'd like to get off your chest? Got a burning desire to air an opinion? If so, be sure to sign-up on Sport24's FORUM!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

Newsletters Sign up for the Morning Glory, Super 15 and Soccer newsletters

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

Mobile Sport24 on your mobile phone - WAP, alerts, downloads, services

Forum Have your Say on Sport24's brand new Forum!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

iPhone Latest Sport24 news on your iPhone

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

Blogs Yes your opinion counts. Get it out there

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