Soccer-United have Hojlund, Antony back for Champions League clash at Galatasaray


Soccer Football - Champions League - Manchester United Training - Trafford Training Centre, Carrington, Britain - November 28, 2023 Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag during training Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United have Rasmus Hojlund, the joint top-scorer in the Champions League this season, and Antony fit for their pivotal game at Galatasaray on Wednesday in a big boost for Erik ten Hag's side who cannot lose if they hope to advance.

With two games remaining, United are bottom of Group A on three points after four games, a point behind second-placed Copenhagen FC and Galatasaray, who are third having pulled off a shock 3-2 win at Old Trafford last month.

While United's European form has been below-par this season, they have won five out of their last six Premier League matches and Ten Hag is optimistic his team can carry that momentum over into their final two Champions League matches.

"We have improved," he said. "We have made good progress and we are more stable and are winning games. There is a big difference in us from the first moment we played Galatasaray."

Hojlund's five goals have put him level with Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata, and two of those came against Galatasaray. Both the Dane and Brazilian Antony trained on Tuesday after missing Sunday's 3-0 league win at Everton.

Ten Hag's side will be without forward Marcus Rashford at Galatasaray as he serves a one-game ban for his sending off in the 4-3 defeat at FC Copenhagen last time out.

United host group winners Bayern Munich, who have a perfect record of 12 points, on Dec. 12 in their final game in the section but their fate is not in their own hands.

'STAY CALM'

Ten Hag has encouraged his players to remain calm.

"You can always fight," he said after Tuesday's training session at Carrington. "You have to stay calm in your head and don't get too emotional. Don't give them anything, or the referee as well.

"You have to stay away from such moments. We know how to deal with it. We will make a good plan but at the end of the day the players decide. They have to play the game."

Meanwhile, United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has had his captaincy questioned this season, but the Portuguese player told reporters on Tuesday that the harsh comments do not bother him.

"It's normal to be criticised at Man United. You just have to deal with that," he said. "When I first arrived, it was all flowers. But when performances aren't what people expect them to be, (expectations) are always higher and higher.

"Not keeping the same numbers of goals or assists – there's always going to be something. The way I am has been the same since I arrived at the club. It's not changed with me being the captain. Everyone here is pretty happy with my leadership."

In Sunday's match at Everton, Fernandes handed the ball to Rashford to convert a penalty because the striker had only scored once this season and needed a boost, the captain said.

The game's highlight however was Alejandro Garnacho's stunning goal from an overhead kick that drew comparisons to former United greats Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Asked if the 19-year-old Argentine practises such acrobatic shots in training, Fernandes said laughing: "I don't know if he is training that. It wouldn't be good for his back."

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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