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Three ways Reds can recover

Point Rio Ferdinand at

Fernando Llorente

Alex Ferguson said after Llorente handed out a harsh lesson to Chris Smalling last Thursday that he was considering resting Rio Ferdinand against West Bromwich Albion in readiness for tonight.

He did not, but Smalling's head injury means Ferdinand will face the tall 27-year-old striker. His task may be made easier by the fact that Llorente is carrying a slight hamstring strain too, though he will probably start.

Command midfield

Ferguson admitted after last week's 3-2 defeat that he had initially lost midfield, where, with Phil Jones and Ryan Giggs over-run, his side ceded control. When Michael Carrick arrived things improved and United ran that area. Carrick is likely to start tonight; United must set a higher tempo to match Bilbao's running and also maintain better ball possession.

"Our performance level has to step up," Ferguson insisted last night.

Don't believe the hype

History weighs against United, who have been knocked out on the two occasions they have carried home first-leg defeats into Europe -- the 1-0 home defeats to Bayern Munich (2001) and Milan (2005).

But while Athletic Bilbao have the ability to raise their game against top sides (draws with Barcelona and Valencia and victory over Malaga), they can be inconsistent and are 33 points off top spot in La Liga.

Their centre-backs, Javi Martinez and Fernando Amorebieta, can be a weak link if pressed hard in possession and, in Wayne Rooney, United have somebody who can capitalise.

Irish Independent