Fergie to let Rooney loose on Tuesday
Under normal circumstances, a trip to face the ailing Romanian champions, sandwiched in between key Premier League fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester City would be the cue for Sir Alex Ferguson to rest many of his senior players.
That opportunity was denied to the Manchester United boss when his team tossed away a two-goal lead against FC Basle at Old Trafford three weeks ago. Ashley Young salvaged a point for the Red Devils but with just two points from their opening two games, United presently lie third in Group C and urgently in need of victory against a side who are yet to pick up a point.
So Wayne Rooney, surprisingly omitted from Ferguson’s starting line-up for the weekend trip to Anfield because he was "devastated" at picking up a three-match ban that would rule him out of the entire European Championships if England failed to emerge from their group, will get his chance.
"He’ll be playing tomorrow," Ferguson declared. "When the initial news came through it was a definite blow for him. He didn’t expect that. None of us did.
"It was a silly action but it wasn’t seriously dangerous. When he realised getting a three-match ban meant missing all the games for England and might not be involved at all, it is not easy to qualify in major championships, that resonated in Wayne’s mind.
"But actually, when he came on he was quite bubbly. He was full of energy and enthusiasm.
"He was desperate to get on, which is good. When he was sat watching the game he probably said, ‘Christ I could be out there’."
Rooney will decide later this week whether to launch an appeal, although his United team-mates have obviously decided now is not the time to trigger an in-depth dressing room discussion about the matter.
"Wayne has a lot of experience," said midfielder Park Ji-sung. "We don’t tell him what he has to do.
"It wasn’t a good action but he played very well when he came on at the weekend. Wayne will show what he has to do on the pitch."
As it turned out, the one player Ferguson did leave at home, other than currently injured duo Tom Cleverley and Rafael, was Rio Ferdinand.
This was despite the 32-year-old producing a fine performance at Liverpool, albeit one that might have ended with a red card if referee Andre Marriner had taken a harsh view of the tackle on Charlie Adam that led directly to Liverpool’s equaliser.
However, Ferguson knows Ferdinand’s body is no longer what it was. And evidently, the best place for his £29.1million defender to prepare for Sunday’s Manchester derby is Carrington, not Bucharest.
"He played very well on Saturday but playing three games in seven days is lot to ask of players when they get to their 30s," said the United boss. "It is the right moment to give him a rest."
The decision was made easier by the presence of skipper Nemanja Vidic on the three-and-a-half hour flight into eastern Europe. Vidic has been missing since injuring his calf at West Brom on August 14 but is expected to partner either Jonny Evans or Phil Jones in the National Stadium, being used because Otelul’s home 150 miles away does not meet UEFA standards.
"The pitch is fine," said Ferguson, allaying fears that had been expressed by Patrice Evra after he played for France in the same stadium last month. It means there should be no excuses on an evening when all thoughts of the impending confrontation with the blue half of Manchester will be set aside.
"Against Basle we became very complacent and it’s not a tournament where you can afford to be complacent, so tomorrow is an important game for us now," said Ferguson.
"We have to win, so I’ll play a strong team. But I can play several teams and they would still be strong enough to win the game.
"The timescale for recovery is perfect for us, and it’s the same for City as well."