LONDON, November 1 – Manchester United headed out to Turkey on Champions League duty on Monday without central defender Rio Ferdinand.
There was no immediate word on why Ferdinand was not in the 20-strong squad, but manager Alex Ferguson is known to be eager to rest the player who has long-standing back problems which can be brought on by long flights.
With crucial Premier League matches against Wolves and at Manchester City and Aston Villa to follow in the next fortnight, Ferdinand may have 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 in Istanbul against Bursaspor which would bolster their lead in Group C and all but seal a place in the knockout round.
Midfielder Michael Carrick was on the plane and the former Tottenham 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 England 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."