Munteanu: United match my biggest night
The true target of Otelul Galati when they face Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League tomorrow has been laid bare by president Marius Stan. Forced to play 150 miles away from their home on the Moldovan border due to stadium regulations, without a point so far on their competition debut and struggling halfway up the Romanian league, tomorrow night's encounter at the National Stadium in Bucharest always promised to be tough.
And whilst coach Dorinel Munteanu talked a good game in the scheduled pre-match press conference, Stan had already exposed Otelul's game plan. "The simple objective from this game is not to end up being embarrassed," said Stan. When Munteanu was informed, he squirmed in his chair. "That is the president's opinion, not our target," he declared.
Yet it is easy to see why Stan should reach a conclusion. Last week, when United players were scattered far and wide on international duty, Otelul had all theirs still at the club. Not one call up. It is certainly an usuaual situation for any team at this level of the game.
Little wonder it was suggested they were too respectful, fearful almost, of Benfica in the same stadium a fortnight ago, when they lost 1-0. "It will not be like that again," said Munteanu. "I am convinced of that. I have only been a coach for five years, so it is fairly obvious to say this will be the biggest night of my career. But I intend there to be many more."
Munteanu, a member of the Romanian national side that defeated England both at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000, dismissed Wayne Rooney's recent problems as largely an irrelevance, claiming the England star's absence at Anfield on Saturday only meant another stellar talent, Danny Welbeck, got a chance to impress. It is estimated around 1,000 United fans will watch what will only be United's second trip to Romania, having beaten Dinamo Bucharest in a qualifier seven years ago.
The 55,000 capacity stadium, which will host this season's UEFA Europa League final, should be half full, although similar sentiments were expressed prior to the Benfica game, and on that occasion only 7,000 turned up. Of more certainty is that Munteanu will be facing a coach in Sir Alex Ferguson who will celebrate 25 years in the United hot-seat on 7 November. "It is amazing. Absolutely amazing," Munteanu said. "No-one will ever do that again. They won't even get close."