LONDON • As Bastian Schweinsteiger prepares for his first match in Germany since leaving Bayern Munich, Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has called on the midfielder to lead them to victory against Wolfsburg.
United need to beat the Group B leaders tonight to ensure their place in the Champions League knockout stages. But their lengthy injury list has resulted in youngsters such as Guillermo Varela, 22, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, 18, Sean Goss, 20, and Nick Powell, 21, making the 19-man squad.
The quartet have just nine United appearances between them. Powell, recalled to the first-team squad for the first time in 16 months, is the only one who has featured in the Champions League before.
Captain Wayne Rooney, midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and Marcos Rojo are among the Red Devils sidelined. Schneiderlin's absence means Schweinsteiger is almost certain to start, and van Gaal has challenged the German international to show his leadership qualities.
I believe that every match that he plays
he can play better because until now we have not seen the best Schweinsteiger that I have seen at Bayern Munich, but he can guide the team.
MANCHESTER UNITED COACH LOUIS VAN GAAL, on United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger
"The reason why we have bought Schweinsteiger is that he is a player who can lead or guide a team," said the Dutchman.
"That is important - not only his football qualities - but that he can lead and guide a team on the pitch.
All to play for in Group B
WOLFSBURG (GER) v MANCHESTER UNITED (ENG)
This is a huge match at the Volkswagen Arena.
Wolfsburg are top of the section so they need only a draw to go through, while a win will guarantee top spot.
United have to win to be sure of qualifying. Anything less and they will be relying on PSV Eindhoven slipping up in their game.
Wolfsburg, who dropped to fifth in the Bundesliga after a 1-2 home loss to Borussia Dortmund at the weekend, are bidding to reach the knockout rounds for the first time.
PSV EINDHOVEN (NED) v CSKA MOSCOW (RUS)
Dutch champions PSV come into their final game in third spot. But with the two sides above them meeting one another, Philip Cocu's side know a win against CSKA at home will take them through.
A draw would also be good enough if Manchester United were to lose in Germany. Yet, a CSKA win would see the Russians, who cannot reach the last 16, move above PSV and snatch the Europa League berth that comes with finishing third.
"I believe that every match that he plays he can play better because until now we have not seen the best Schweinsteiger that I have seen at Bayern Munich, but he can guide the team."
Schweinsteiger arrived at Old Trafford in the summer for £6.5 million (S$13.8 million).
The 31-year-old has since featured in 23 of United's 24 games this campaign as a deep-lying midfielder. He scored his first United goal against Leicester City in the Premier League last month.
But United have not found the net since, having been held to a goalless draw by West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.
So far this season, they have averaged just 1.29 goals at home - their lowest return in Premier League history. And since winning 2-1 at home against Wolfsburg in September, United have scored only twice in three Champions League games.
That Wolfsburg just need a draw today means the onus is on United to break the Bundesliga side down.
But van Gaal believes his goal-shy side can score.
"I know that also Wolfsburg shall not attack too much because with a draw, they continue and we are dependent on PSV," he said, referring to PSV Eindhoven's home clash against CSKA Moscow.
"Every match, we have chances and, in our European matches, we have created more chances than in the Premier League matches.
"We know we have to score in Wolfsburg. We have to play against a very good team.
"I am convinced we can do it but we have to be more composed in front of goal."
Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking, however, vowed that his side will go for all three points.
"We're playing for the win," he said, as defeat could see Wolfsburg miss out on the last 16 altogether.
His side are still licking their wounds after losing 1-2 at home to Borussia Dortmund last Saturday when Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa hit the winner with virtually the last kick of the Bundesliga match. It was Wolfsburg's first home defeat in 29 games.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
WOLFSBURG V MANCHESTER UNITED
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