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Beckham waits in United wings

Published: Wednesday 11 December 2002, 20.48CET
David Beckham is not sure to start as Manchester United FC tackle RC Deportivo La Coruña.

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Published: Wednesday 11 December 2002, 20.48CET

Beckham waits in United wings

David Beckham is not sure to start as Manchester United FC tackle RC Deportivo La Coruña.

By Trevor Haylett

Manchester United FC welcome back David Beckham for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League meeting with RC Deportivo La Coruña, but such is their run of form, after victories against Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC propelled them back into Premiership contention, that the England captain is not a certain starter.

Winning formula
Despite injury problems which have also robbed United of captain Roy Keane and his fellow midfield player Nicky Butt in addition to central defender Rio Ferdinand, Sir Alex Ferguson's team have rediscovered the winning formula and are full of confidence as they prepare to renew acquaintance with the Spanish side they overcame in last season's quarter-finals.

Aggressive commitment
The aggressive commitment displayed by Juan Sebástian Verón in Saturday's 2-0 victory against Arsenal and the battling, energetic qualities with which Phil Neville denied the English champions a platform to launch attacks mean that Beckham's return after a rib injury is in doubt.

Late decision
Carlos Queroz, Sir Alex's assistant, said a decision on Beckham would not be made until just before kick-off at Old Trafford. "We have a lot of great players and we need them all because we have a lot of important games coming up," he said.

Psychological edge
Deportivo coach Javier Irureta acknowledged that United's weekend league victory affords the home team a psychological edge before the latest encounter between two sides who faced each other four times last season - Deportivo winning home and away in the group stages but losing both quarter-final legs.

'Good progress'
Yet Irureta warned against any United complaceny when he pointed out: "It should be remembered that we have gone eleven games ourselves without defeat so we are making good progress as well."

Valerón returns
Although the influential Juan Carlos Valerón has recently returned from a leg fracture which sidelined him for two months, the midfield star is not expected to start the game in which Deportivo seek their first win in the second group stage following a home 2-2 draw against Juventus FC on Matchday 7.

Makaay in form
A more controversial decision from Irureta has seen the coach leave Aldo Duscher behind in Spain, but with Roy Makaay - eight goals in the Champions League so far, ten in the Primera División - and Diego Tristán leading their attack, United have plenty to worry about even in Duscher's absence.

Welcome break
"We know that Deportivo are not doing so well in Spain but in the Champions League they have had fantastic results and it will be a very difficult game for us," added Queroz. "After this game we have a break from this competition for two months so it is important we get a positive result and keep our good run going."

Home advantage
After launching their Group D campaign in formidable fashion on Matchday 7 with a Ruud van Nistelrooij-inspired victory against FC Basel, United know that victories in their next two fixtures, which are both at home, with Juventus following Deportivo to Manchester, would virtually seal their place in the last eight.

Last updated: 11/12/02 20.39CET