Ferdinand misses United trip
© AFP

Rio Ferdinand was the major absentee from the 20-man Manchester United party which headed off to Turkey this morning for the UEFA Champions League encounter with Bursaspor.

No immediate reason was given for Ferdinand's absence although it seems highly likely Sir Alex Ferguson's decision was purely precautionary. Ferdinand has long-standing back problems and the four-hour flight is hardly conducive to easing his discomfort.

With crucial Premier League matches against Wolverhampton Wanderers and at Manchester City and Aston Villa to follow in the next fortnight, Ferdinand has almost certainly been excused to give him the best possible chance of featuring in those fixtures.

Jonny Evans, Federico Macheda, Anderson plus long-term victims Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Michael Owen were also missing as United search for the three points which would take them up to ten in Group C, the mark which Ferguson always feels is enough to seal a place in the knockout round.

Travelling to Turkey, for instance, presents you with a long journey and a different type of atmosphere.
Michael Carrick, Manchester United midfielder

Midfielder Michael Carrick was on the plane and the former Tottenham Hotspur man has rejected the theory that the Champions League group stage is getting easier.

"The Champions League is not easier than it used to be,'' said the English international. In terms of the stature and history of the clubs, it might not be as good, but the games are still tough, especially away from home.

"People might point to our away record, which is very good, but all those matches have been hard.

"Travelling to Turkey, for instance, presents you with a long journey and a different type of atmosphere. You are encountering players that you don't see every week.

"It brings a different challenge to Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. It is something you have to face if you want to continue in the competition.''