Manchester United will have to overcome the loss of Wayne Rooney and several other players if it is to improve its terrible record in Spain in Wednesday’s Champions League match against Spanish leader Valencia.
Article continues below ...
Man United, which has won only once on 18 previous visits to Spain, has shown patchy form in the Premier League and drew its Champions League opener against Rangers two weeks ago.
Manager Alex Ferguson now also has to deal with a mounting injury list. On Tuesday, Rooney was ruled out for two to three weeks after injuring his ankle in United’s 2-2 draw at the weekend and Scholes was ruled out for 10 days with a calf problem.
"You don’t want to lose your best players, that goes without saying," Ferguson said. "The problem is with one of those small injuries like Paul has got, when you are traveling and sitting on a plane, stiffness comes into it and doesn’t make it any better.
"It was a big decision to leave him behind. Because it is only a little one, you are tempted to play him when it is not wise."
Ryan Giggs will also be missing at Valencia due to a hamstring strain, while winger Antonio Valencia is out for most of the season after breaking his ankle.
Ferguson has to decide whether to partner Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in central defense for the first time this season. After watching his team concede nine goals in the past five Premier League games, he would likely prefer to have his first-choice pairing back.
Valencia tops Group C after routing Turkish side Bursaspor 4-0 two weeks ago, and the Spanish team is leading the league after five rounds.
Ferguson was concerned enough about the good form of coach Unai Emery’s players that he traveled last week to watch them, leaving assistant coach Mike Phelan in charge for a League Cup match.
Valencia has only dropped two points in the Spanish league and won 2-0 at Sporting Gijon on Saturday. While noting United’s player depth, winger Juan Mata said the absence of Giggs in particular could have a large bearing on the result.
"Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always liked and admired Ryan Giggs because of his technical characteristics and because I think he is, and has been, one of the best wingers in the European game," Mata said. "His absence will be important, especially with the experience he brings to matches."
Emery praised the contribution of Ferguson at United but said his own team expects to do well at Mestalla stadium.
"At a coaching level, I have great respect for him. He’s like a mirror to watch, to learn all the things he contributes to the game," Emery said. "We have high expectations, with our sights set high, and we are confident things will go well."
With Rooney missing, Dimitar Berbatov is likely to lead the attack after scoring six goals in six Premier League matches.
Midfielder Michael Carrick could return to the United team for the first time since early August after recovering from an Achilles’ tendon injury.
"It is going to be a difficult match," midfielder Darren Fletcher said. "People might say it is not the same Valencia because they have lost (David) Villa and (David) Silva. But as we have seen at Manchester United, when you lose good players, others step up to the mark and take on more responsibility."
In the other group match, Rangers hosts Turkish side Bursaspor looking to add to the point that was gained at Old Trafford with a strong defensive display.
The Scottish champions failed to earn a point in Glasgow in the group stage last year.
"I don’t think after the home form last season we could go into any game in the Champions League as the favored team," manager Walter Smith said. "We would hope we would do better at home this season. We need to achieve a far better balance between our attacking and defending than we have so far.
"All we have to do is concentrate on better performances at home this season than we had last season, that’s the main objective from our own point of view."
Rangers has begun its Scottish title defense with six straight wins.
"Going into the Champions League is a step up in level. There is no doubt about that, and you have to make adjustments to that," Smith said. "We will make the necessary adjustment at home and that adjustment will be the better balance between our attacking and defending.
"We certainly can’t go and play tomorrow night in the manner that we did against Manchester United."