Manchester United to fly out the traps against Leverkusen
David Moyes hasn’t been at Old Trafford for very long, but he will have known full well even before he first settled into his new hot seat that success at Manchester United is not just measured by Premiership titles, it is gauged by triumphs on the European stage – specifically the Champions League.
Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson (twice) both delivered the biggest club prize in Europe and Moyes will need no reminding that ultimately this is how he will be judged.
So the former Everton boss will understandably be nervous as United begin their latest campaign tonight. The Reds will be at home, which is probably how Moyes would have preferred it, but Old Trafford is not the fortress it once was when it comes to European ties and opponents Bayer Leverkusen are nobody’s pushovers.
Bayer, managed by former Liverpool defender Sami Hyppia, are 80/1 with Coral to win the Champions League outright, while United are priced at 14/1, but the German outfit have started the new campaign impressively in the Bundesliga and won’t be overawed by tonight’s big test.
Well organised by Hyppia, they are essentially a counter-attacking side with several players who can cause damage on the break.
Coral go 5/6 Man United, 7/2 Bayer, 13/5 the draw and there will be as much a sense of relief as euphoria if Moyes and his boys can etch three points out of the game.
It will be helpful to United’s chances if Danny Welbeck (knee) and Phil Jones (ankle) can pass late fitness tests and it will also be good news if Shinji Kagawa is fit to return after a bout of flu.
The Japan international (8/1 to score first or last, 11/4 any time) showed enough on infrequent starts last season that he can be the creative spark everybody has been saying is lacking in United’s midfield. Kagawa also looked good for his country in the pre-season Confederations Cup in Brazil and this may well be his breakthrough season in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney is feeling more at home again at Old Trafford, judging by the smile that accompanied his goal against Crystal Palace last Saturday, and it may be that we are about to see another purple patch from the striker. Coral make Rooney a 9/2 shot to net first or last (6/5 any time) with Robin Van Persie favourite at 3/1 (8/11).
It will be tense and it may well be tight, but United might just edge this; 2-1 (15/2) looks a decent shout.
Written by Jon Freeman