United set to rest key players
London – Wayne Rooney could be one of the few big names to start for already-qualified Manchester United in Tuesday's Champions League match at Galatasaray after recovering from tonsillitis.
The England striker missed the 1-0 loss to Norwich in the Premier League on Saturday, but was back in training on Monday before United flew out to Istanbul seeking a fifth straight win in Group H.
With first place in the group already secured, United coach Alex Ferguson has the opportunity to rest the team's top players with Robin van Persie and Rio Ferdinand unlikely to feature. Ferguson, though, hinted Rooney would play if he returned to training.
It's a far cry from last season's struggles in the competition, when the three-time winners surprisingly failed to reach the knockout stage.
“It is a happier place because of what we are doing in the Champions League,” United midfielder Michael Carrick said. “Last year we were chasing our tails a bit and came up short. This year we have been ahead of the game.
“Getting those wins and points on the board makes it an awful lot easier.”
United's position gives Galatasaray a better chance of a win that would keep the Turkish team in second place and favourites to qualify with United. Cluj hosts Braga in the other group match, with the three teams below United separated by only one point.
Looking for a first European home win since 2009, Galatasaray comes into the match on the back of a disappointing 3-1 home loss to unheralded Karabukspor in the Turkish Super League game on Friday. It didn't stop Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim sounding upbeat.
“Galatasaray has a European reflex - we show this reflex even in our worst moments,” Terim said. “From minute one, the crowd will be gushing support for (Galatasaray). If we beat Manchester United, this confidence will carry us further.”
The situation in the group could have been a lot different had United not come away with a slightly fortunate 1-0 victory from their home match against Galatasaray to open the group. The visitors had enough chances to draw, even win, the game at Old Trafford.
Now, United can sit back and watch on as a host of top European sides -including Chelsea, Manchester City, Juventus and AC Milan - struggle to qualify for the knockout stage.
“You can drive yourself mad thinking about who you might get and all the various permutations,” Carrick said, in reference to United's possible opponents in the last 16. “We just have to win our games, which we have done, and see what the draw gives us. Whoever it is, we will be ready in February.” – Sapa-AP