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UEFA Champions League Group H preview: United feel the heat

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wants to avoid another embarrassing early Champions League exit starting on Wednesday.

The Red Devils take on Turkish champions Galatasaray at Old Trafford first up in Group H but will be on notice after failing to make it out of a relatively ‘soft’ group last year that included Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati.

Ferguson has been handed a similarly weak group in comparison to others with Braga, CFR Cluj-Napoca and Galatasaray their opponents.

United were dealt a considerably better hand than their Manchester City rivals, who are paired with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, and Ferguson knows there will be little margin for error this time round.

“If we don’t go through, we quite rightly will be criticised and pilloried for it,” Ferguson said.

“We went out early last year and I don’t anticipate it happening this time.”

Ferguson rested a number of key players for Saturday’s 4-0 demolition of Wigan in the Premier League and will not be toying with his best line-up in the Champions League this season.

“We will play our strongest team on Wednesday, no doubt.

“It was not good to go out at the group stage. Particularly when we were in control.

“I think we will do better this year. We have a strong squad to do so.”

United have strengthened with Japan international Shinji Kagawa and Dutch goal machine Robin van Persie, while Galatasaray have former Premier League players Emmanuel Eboue, Milan Baros and Johan Elmander on their books.

It will be the Turkish side’s first Champions League appearance since the 2006-07 season.

Romanian champions CFR Cluj-Napoca return to Europe’s elite club competition after last appearing in 2010-11.

The Transylvanian club clinched their third domestic title in five seasons but remain rank outsiders in the group.

They will travel to Braga in their opening fixture, with the Portuguese club back in the Champions League after knocking Udinese out in the play-off round on penalties.

Braga finished third domestically last season and have fine recent European pedigree having bundled Liverpool and Dynamo Kyiv out of the 2010-11 Europa League where they reached the semi-finals.

Tue 18 September, 2012
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