MOSCOW — Manchester United return to the scene of their 2008 Champions League triumph looking for a second away victory over CSKA Moscow in exactly six years on Wednesday.
United, who won their third crown when they beat Chelsea on penalties at the Luzhniki Stadium in May 2008, returned to the Russian capital on October 21 2009 and beat CSKA 1-0 with a late goal by Antonio Valencia. The Red Devils will be looking to repeat that victory at a different venue, the Arena Khimki, as the Luzhniki is under reconstruction for the 2018 World Cup.
United will travel to Moscow in good heart after an excellent 3-0 win away to Everton kept them third in the Premier League at the weekend.
Manager Louis van Gaal was delighted with that return to form following a defeat by the same score away to Arsenal in the previous game.
Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney scored the goals, with Rooney again playing just behind striker Anthony Martial, who has made a fine impression since joining from AS Monaco in the close-season.
“Maybe it is the start of many, many victories. I am not stupid, I won’t change too much on Wednesday,” said Van Gaal, who left out fellow Dutchmen Danny Blind and Memphis Depay at the weekend following the Netherlands’ failure to qualify for Euro 2016.
Winger Ashley Young will not feature tonight after sitting out Tuesday’s pre-match training session with a calf injury.
Van Gaal confirmed that he would not travel to Moscow, along with Luke Shaw (broken leg), Paddy McNair (liver damage) and James Wilson (illness).
But winger-fullback Antonio Valencia and reserve goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who missed the win at Everton because they had long-haul flights after the international break, are both expected to travel to Moscow.
United trained at their Carrington training base in southwest Manchester on Tuesday morning and were due to fly to the Russian capital later in the day.
While United may have one eye on Sunday’s derby against Manchester City, they would do well not to underestimate a CSKA side who have been in excellent form as well. CSKA are unbeaten in their past 19 matches in the Russian Premier League, equalling a club record set in 2001, and they beat Ural 3-2 on Saturday to stay five points clear of second-placed Lokomotiv Moscow.
However, head coach Leonid Slutsky has been critical of his team’s performance. “Unfortunately, we are unable to fully control the whole match,” said the 44-year-old.
In August, he also started to coach the Russian national team.
CSKA will be without Bibras Natcho who is suffering from a head injury, however, fellow midfielder Roman Eremenko is expected to be fit following a groin strain. Experienced central defender Vasili Berezutski is also expected to return.
Russian international goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev will be hoping for an upturn in fortunes.
CSKA’s captain, Viktor Khryapa, is looking to end an unwanted record, having failed to keep a clean sheet in 33 consecutive appearances in the Champions League.
All four teams in Group B — United, CSKA, PSV Eindhoven and Wolfsburg — are level on three points after two matches.