Manchester United still have three Champions League fixtures in which they hope to gain four more points to ensure qualification to the next round. Real Sociedad are rock-bottom of the group with zero points and can't even entertain the notion of qualifying. Nonetheless, United boss David Moyes will need to reshuffle his defence again for Tuesday's match as a spate of injuries has hit the back four.
Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans and Rafael did not train ahead of the Champions League game and Moyes ruled out the latter two in his news conference. After a week on the bench, Rio Ferdinand can expect a recall and will probably be partnered by Phil Jones at centre-back. With a trip to league leaders Arsenal on Sunday, the champions do not want to pick up any more knocks.
- Fitness worries for United
- Sociedad coach promises committed display
One man who is not injured is winger Adnan Januzaj, despite being stamped by Fulham's Sascha Riether on Saturday. “It should have been a red card,” said Marouane Fellaini, who was 1 yard away. The Fulham player has been retroactively charged by the FA.
In the grander scheme of things, Michael Carrick’s injury is definitely a concern. He is currently the most senior central midfielder at the club and United play noticeably better when he is on the field. One clenches the teeth at the prospect of facing Arsenal’s quick-passing side next Sunday without the United man in the side.
In the meantime, United will hope to get a result in Spain to keep their healthy run of form going. Real Sociedad come into this game in blistering form themselves, having smashed Osasuna 5-0 at the weekend. A game against Real Madrid looms Saturday but they will take the field on Tuesday buoyant and with goals in the team.
Although they are yet to match the form they produced last season, Sociedad proved at the weekend they are still capable of breathless football on occasion. With seven goals from midfield to his name already this season, Antoine Griezmann is one to watch for a United defence beset by injury.
Manchester United, of course, will be hoping they have the firepower to worry their opponents even more. Javier Hernandez scored three goals last week and then sparked a minor furore by retweeting a story that suggested he was angling for a transfer.
Carlos Vela says Javier Hernandez will have to consider his future at Man United if he does not play regularly. http://t.co/FiH5vu9WgN— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) November 3, 2013
Whether there is substance to this beyond an errant click of the mouse is irrelevant. The best thing for club and player is for the Mexican to play and continue scoring goals. There is no doubt his contributions will be needed by United this season. They would be mad to let him go.
Mark Payne is the author of “Fergie’s Last Stand,” available on Amazon Kindle. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkJPayne