Rooney issue hovers over United`s Bursaspor clash
Alex Ferguson will reveal the most eagerly awaited Manchester United team of the season an hour before Wednesday`s Champions League match against Bursaspor, and if Wayne Rooney is not in it Old Trafford will be abuzz.
Rooney, who made his spectacular United debut against Turkish opposition with a hat-trick in a 6-2 thrashing of Fenerbahce in 2004, was left out of their previous Champions League match, a 1-0 win in Valencia in September, and the subsequent premier league game against Sunderland.
Ferguson said his key striker was struggling with an ankle injury, but Rooney, after playing 90 minutes for England last Tuesday, insisted there was nothing wrong with him and had no idea why Ferguson said he was injured.
Ferguson left him on the bench for all but the last 20 minutes of Saturday`s 2-2 home league draw with West Bromwich Albion and refused afterwards to discuss his decision.
British media seized on the "rift", claiming that Rooney has refused to sign a contract extension and recalling the surprise exits of former United favourites such as David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Jaap Stam after they got on the wrong side of the Scot.
Ferguson does not like to be second-guessed by anyone, but if he overlooks last season`s double player of the year and United continue to struggle, he will be in for one of the roughest rides of his career.
If Rooney wins a return to Ferguson`s starting line-up on Wednesday for the Group C match, he will likely play alongside the Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov. If Rooney misses out, Mexican striker Javier Hernandez is favourite to partner Berbatov.
The draw against West Brom, after United had been leading 2-0, was their fifth draw in eight Premier League games this season. They are already five points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
They should get back to winning ways against Bursaspor, move to seven points and into a strong position to advance from Group C.
Ferguson, though, will be wary of another upset against Turkish opposition.
United lost at home to Besiktas last season in their first home European defeat for four years, although by then they had qualified for the knockout stages of the 2009-10 competition.
In 1996, Fenerbahce handed United their first home defeat ever in the Champions League/European Cup.
Bursaspor, however, are not in that class. They have lost their last six European games without scoring and have never scored in their five European away matches. In this campaign they lost 1-0 at Rangers and were thumped 4-0 at home by Valencia.
They also drew 2-2 at the weekend, against Karabukspor, and lead the Turkish league with 20 points from eight games.
Coach Ertugrul Saglam, whose Besiktas team was hammered 8-0 by Liverpool three years ago, travels to Old Trafford in a positive mood.
"United are going through a troubled time," he said. "There is no reason why we cannot return to Turkey with a surprise result."
Saglam, too, is involved in a delicate man-management issue. Winger Volkan Sen was left out of the squad against Karabukspor as punishment for travelling to the United States without permission, but he is expected to return to the side against United.
Manchester United: 1-Edwin van der Sar; 21-Rafael Da Silva, 5-Rio Ferdinand, 15-Nemanja Vidic, 3-Patrice Evra; 24-Darren Fletcher, 16-Michael Carrick, 8-Anderson, 17-Nani, 9-Dimitar Berbatov, 10-Wayne Rooney.
Bursaspor: 27-Dimitar Ivankov; 21-Ali Tandogan, 4-Omer Erdogan, 38-Ibrahim Ozturk, 3-Gokcek Vederson; 10-Volkan Sen, 13-Gustav Svensson, 7-Federico Insua, 20-Ozan Ipek; 17-Pablo Batalla, 22-Turgay Bahadir.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)