Depleted Man U faces CSKA Moscow in Champs League

Manchester United is unconcerned about playing on an artificial pitch when the team takes on CSKA Moscow on Wednesday in the Champions League.

The match will be played at Luzhniki Stadium, the ground where United manager Alex Ferguson lifted his second Champions League trophy almost 18 months ago when the Red Devils beat Chelsea on penalties. That game was played on a patchwork field of real grass, but the stadium will have its regular plastic surface this time.

“I have no issues with the pitch in Moscow,” Ferguson said. “When Luton and QPR had them all those years ago, we always played well on them.

“We had a great record on those artificial pitches and that was when the artificial pitches weren’t as good. The one in Moscow has a far better covering on it.”

Ferguson – whose team leads Group B with two wins in two games – is without a number of key players for the match. Striker Wayne Rooney injured a calf muscle during England’s 1-0 loss in Ukraine last week, while midfielder Ryan Giggs and left back Patrice Evra picked up injuries against Bolton on Saturday.

The injured Park Ji-sung and Darren Fletcher have been left out with Sunday’s league match with Liverpool looming. There are also concerns over defender Nemanja Vidic and striker Dimitar Berbatov, who could face his former manager at Tottenham in CSKA coach Juande Ramos.

“I’m hopeful Vidic will be all right, but he’ll certainly be ready for the Liverpool game on Sunday,” Ferguson said.

Berbatov, if declared fit, and Michael Owen will be vying for a place in attack, while Jonny Evans and John O’Shea offer options in defense with Evra, and possibly Vidic, out.

CSKA defender Sergei Ignashevich played down the absence of Rooney.

“Rooney is one of United’s key players,” Ignashevich said, adding that the English champions “have such a squad of players that allows them to solve the problem painlessly.”

Ramos, who also had a spell as Real Madrid coach, said his team had nerves, but believes United has its “weak spots.”

“This match is really important for us,” Ramos added. “It will show how close CSKA is to the world’s best teams. We are obliged to play for the win.”

The hosts have fewer injury concerns. Brazilian striker Guilherme limped out of the 1-1 draw at Spartak Nalchik on Saturday and may not recover, but defender Vasily Berezutsky should shake off a bout of the flu.

United beat Wolfsburg and Besiktas to open the Champions League. CSKA, currently fourth in the Russian Premier League, beat last-place Besiktas but lost to Wolfsburg. CSKA trails the second-place German team on goal difference.