Manchester United need to
learn the lessons of the Internazionale tie when they face Porto
in their Champions League quarter-final at Old Trafford tonight.
They dominated the first leg
away to Inter in the last 16 but failed to make their dominance pay and were a
little lucky to come through the second game.
It is no good just waiting
for things to happen - you have to make them happen, and United must do this
right from the off against Porto, especially
with the first leg at home.
Porto were not seen as a threat five years ago when they
ended up knocking United out - and went on to win the trophy.
While Alex Ferguson's side are strong favourites, there is always a
risk of an upset if you underestimate your opponents. They need to leave
nothing to chance and press home their advantage early on.
I think Sir Alex is right
when he says fatigue is not an issue going into this game, even though it comes
only 48 hours after Sunday's win
against Aston Villa.
The important thing is that
United got back to winning ways against Villa. They haven't
played well for a long, long time, but it was a huge win and the dramatic
nature of it will have given everyone a boost.
It might have been a
different story if Villa had held on for a draw or even won that game, but I
don't think anyone in the Manchester
United dressing room will be worrying about tiredness. They will feel energised
They also have the bonus of
three players coming back from suspension - Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and
Paul Scholes - who will have fresh legs.
In any case, United had the
option to play on Saturday but Sir Alex wanted his squad to have an extra day
of recovery after the international break. So there is no room for excuses or
Federico Macheda's late winner got United's
title challenge back on track and evoked great moments from the past such as
Steve Bruce's two late headers
against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993.
As with any young kid who
comes in and does well, Macheda has been massively overhyped by the media -
perhaps understandably given his spectacular debut.
He has kept his place in the
squad, although I suspect he might have done anyway given the seriousness of
United's injury problems.
As with so many young
players in the past, Sir Alex will make sure Macheda keeps his feet on the
ground and he will bring him through slowly.
He is not the only good
young striker at Old Trafford, with Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell - currently
on loan at Spurs - also trying to break into the first-team picture.
There is no way Macheda will
be allowed to believe the hype, and he is lucky to have a manager who will
ensure he keeps his feet firmly on the ground.
Rio Ferdinand is expected to
miss the game because of a groin strain, but I wouldn't
put it past Sir Alex to sneak him back into the side as he has done with
supposedly injured players in the past.
If he did, it would be a
massive fillip for a defence that has looked shaky recently.
Jonny Evans looked like an
inexperienced 21-year-old for the first-time against Villa, and obviously Gary
Neville struggled out of position alongside him.
Having Vidic back is a big
bonus, but Ferdinand's return would
complete the restoration of United's
formidable defensive unit. Whether Rio plays
or not, Evans certainly looks more secure when he has Vidic to support him.