CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko has rejected suggestions Manchester United are no longer a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League.
United last visited CSKA in October 2009, the same year in which they defended their Premier League title and reached a second consecutive final in Europe, losing their Champions League crown to Barcelona in Rome.
Louis van Gaal’s side have managed one win and one defeat in their return to the competition this season after a turbulent two years following the retirement of manager Alex Ferguson, and have not won a trophy since the league title they secured in 2013.
Eremenko, however, has dismissed the idea that facing United now is a far easier prospect than it was six years ago.
“I don’t know if it benefits anyone that they didn’t conduct a training session [on the stadium pitch], but I don’t agree that Manchester United are not so good anymore,” he said on Tuesday.
“They’re a strong team, they have lots of young players. I think they’re a very strong opponent.”
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky agreed that comparing the two matches is pointless, especially since United’s 1-0 win in 2009 – courtesy of a late Antonio Valencia goal – gave them three wins from three in the group.
“It’s difficult for me to compare different generations. When we played in 2009, Manchester United had effectively decided their place in the tournament,” Slutsky said.
“Tomorrow’s match is quite different, all teams are fully motivated for the tournament.
“When you play against players with these names, of this calibre, you have to be prepared for them to show their full potential. These back-to-back matches are always crucial; we have to respect our opponents and be aware that we are up against a giant side, but we have the right to hope for a positive result.”
Eremenko, meanwhile, is relishing the chance to face Bastian Schweinsteiger on Wednesday, despite admitting he has seen little of the Germany international’s form in England.
“His qualities and experience make him useful for any team,” he said. “I’ve not watched him in matches, but I always liked him. It’s not easy to play against him now.”
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