Just 48 hours after Federico Macheda’s ‘defining moment’, it’s Champions League time. Such is the life of quintuple chasers.
Sir Alex Ferguson is not a man known to indulge in hyperbole but even he admitted that Sunday’s most unlikely win over Aston Villa had galvanised a club that heads into the final furlong of the season still seeking two more domestic trophies and one from the continent.
Defeat to Villa would have been every bit as demoralising as victory was uplifting...worries over injured absentees have been replaced by optimism at increasing options and defensive concerns allayed by returning stalwarts.
Rio Ferdinand’s troublesome back could keep him out again but Nemanja Vidic’s suspension is over, meaning he is back to partner Jonny Evans and, more importantly on the evidence of Villa’s terrorising of Gary Neville, John O’Shea can stay on the right of defence.
Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes are also back to beef up United’s attack but it is Vidic’s availability to a team that has shipped eight league goals in their last three outings that will have helped Ferguson sleep easy on Monday evening.
Any hope the Serbia defender might have had of easing himself back into action look likely to be dashed by the presence of the tournament’s joint-second highest scorer, Lisandro Lopez, and the bulky frame of Hulk.
It was another, far more notorious frame that caught the eye the last time Porto made the trip to Old Trafford.
Although there’ll be no Jose Mourinho jig this time, Porto’s current manager seems keen to make an impression every bit as emphatic.
Jesualdo Ferreira has promised to bring the kind of ‘attacking spirit’ to England that has seen his side win eight successive away games in the league and, as such, could even be tempted to field Lisandro and Hulk alongside Cristian Rodriguez as part of a three-pronged attack.
For his part, Ferguson, looking to extend a 21-game unbeaten run in the Champions League, will surely recall Rooney and Scholes after confirming that Macheda – the man 40 years his junior who has roused all around him – will be handed a place on the bench.
PIVOTAL PLAYER: Nemanja Vidic. This'll be no walk in the park for the Serbian. Hulk and Lisandro Lopez will pose two very different threats but, if they can be tamed, United's midfield should have enough to take the game to their visitors.
PREDICTION: Manchester United 2-1 Porto