Manchester United will be without England center back Rio Ferdinand when it takes on little-known Romanian team Otelul Galati in the Champions League on Tuesday.
United is looking for its first win in this season’s competition, against a side manager Alex Ferguson admitted he had “never heard of” before.
Even in Romania, not much more is known about the “Steelworkers”—other than that Otelul’s captain volunteered for a 30 percent pay cut last year.
With United in desperate need of a win to kickstart its campaign after two straight draws in Group C, Ferguson could recall captain Nemanja Vidic, who has recovered from a calf injury, as well as Wayne Rooney, Portugal winger Nani and Mexico striker Javier Hernandez, after all three started on the bench at the weekend.
Ferguson left Rooney out of his lineup for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool because the striker was “devastated” that he had been given a three-match ban by UEFA for a sending-off on England duty, ruling him out of the group stage of the 2012 European Championship.
Ferguson said that Rooney was “full of energy and enthusiasm and he’ll be playing tomorrow,” at a press conference in Bucharest.
Ferdinand, who played the full 90 minutes against Liverpool, has been rested and is not in the 23-man squad.
“We need to win both games (against Otelul) and hopefully we’ll do that,” Ferguson said. “And we’ll hope for one of two things from the other teams (Basel and Benfica)—either they both draw or one wins both games. We don’t want them to win a game each as the group would then be very tight.”
Ferguson also said he spoke to United defender Patrice Evra, who claimed that Liverpool striker Luis Suarez made a racist comment to him during a game at the weekend.
“It is not an easy one for us. Everyone knows Manchester United and Liverpool have great responsibilities in terms of things that happen on the field.
“Saturday was terrific. Both sets of fans were good. There was not any of that silly chanting we have had in previous years. Both sets of fans deserve praise for that,” he said.
In Romania, there are no illusions about Tuesday’s game, as underdog Otelul — which is playing 150 miles from home as its stadium is too small—continues the search for its first points in the competition.
“I just hope we do not make a laughing stock of ourselves” defender Sergiu Costin said. “Football is not mathematics. We are hoping for a big result. It’s a big team.”
Otelul was the surprise winner of the Romanian championship last season— its first title—and on Tuesday night the team will meet United at Bucharest’s National Arena in the biggest match in its 47-year history.
Apart from Cornel Rapa, a 21-year-old striker who has played five times for Romania, the team is short on big names. Midfielder Sorin Frunza, who played in the Champions League with Unirea Urziceni in 2009-2010, could feature against United.
Otelul is coached by former Romanian midfielder Dorinel Munteanu, who promised players bonuses if they won the Romanian championships and reached the Champions League.
Barely known outside the steelworks city in Romania’s far east, the team caught the attention in 2010 when captain Gabriel Paraschiv offered to take a pay cut due to the economic downturn, adding that he had been playing worse than usual.
Players earn between ?30,000 ($41,000) and ?40,000 ($55,000) a year, compared to about ?120,000 (US$166,000) a year at top Bucharest teams.
When the group stage draw was made, Ferguson said he had “no idea” where Otelul was from.
“I don’t know if they’ve changed their name like a lot of European teams but I’d never heard of them,” Ferguson said. “We know plenty now and know enough about them.”