Manchester United will be without striker Wayne Rooney against FC Basel on Tuesday when the English champions chase their first win in this season’s Champions League.
Rooney was ruled out for at least a week with a hamstring injury ahead of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Stoke.
“It’s difficult to assess with hamstrings but we hope we have him back quickly,” United manager Alex Ferguson said Monday. “He did a bit of jogging this morning but that’s all.”
Strike partner Javier Hernandez will also miss Tuesday’s match after limping off early in the match that ended United’s perfect start to its Premier League title defense.
While the draw at Stoke was United’s first domestic slip this season, the team had already dropped points in the Champions League when it was held to a 1-1 draw at Benfica in its Group C opener.
Ferguson was already planning to rotate his squad against Basel at Old Trafford, but the injuries to Rooney and Hernandez will force him into an unexpected change up front.
While both Michael Owen and Danny Welbeck are in contention, Dimitar Berbatov could get a rare start on Tuesday leading the attack.
“He is one of our squad members,” Ferguson said of Berbatov. “It’s an exhausting season unless you use your squad.”
United also has injury problems in defense, with Jonny Evans ruled out with an ankle problem and Chris Smalling sidelined with a groin injury. Nemanja Vidic has yet to start training after sustaining a calf injury last month.
Basel, which will be without striker Xherdan Shaqiri due to suspension, has a two-point lead over United and Benfica in Group C after beating Romanian champion Otelul Galati.
Facing United will revive Basel coach Thorsten Fink’s memories of the 1999 Champions League final.
Then playing for Bayern Munich, the midfielder came on in the 80th minute with his side leading 1-0, only to see United stage a late comeback for a 2-1 win.
“It is not a question of getting equal,” Fink said. “Going back (to 1999), it was a great memory, even in defeat. I think you always gain strength from defeat because everything that hurts helps you improve. … If you are not careful against a team like Manchester United you end up paying.”
Basel has never won in seven visits to England in all competitions.
“We have experience and young players but what we don’t have is fear,” Fink said. “We are a Champions League team, we know what we can do, we have confidence. We haven’t come here to sit and watch, we have come here to play.
“We are looking to get something out of the game but we have to be tight at the back.”
Ferguson is hoping a victory over Basel is followed by back-to-back wins over Otelul Galati so he can rest players for the final Group C matches ahead of the packed December fixture list.
“If we win our next three games, we can utilize the squad,” Ferguson said. “It would definitely help and we’ve done that over the years. It’s sometimes backfired – I played a fresh team over in Fenerbahce and they beat us 3-0. Although I want to make changes, I don’t want an embarrassment. So changes have got to be made with a mind of still winning the game.”
Fletcher is already wary of the looming matches against Otelul Galati.
“You’ve got to be cautious about unknown quantities,” he said. “Some people expect you to just walk over teams like that and win comfortably. It’s never as easy as that though.”
Benfica will find out for itself on Tuesday when it becomes Otelul Galati’s first-ever Champions League opponent in Bucharest.
Away matches have proved tough for Benfica, which lost all three group matches on the road last season and hasn’t won outside Lisbon in the tournament since the 2007-08 season.
But Benfica is unbeaten on four previous visits to the Romanian capital, last beating Dinamo Bucharest in the 2006-07 campaign.
source : msnbc