Last updated : 11 August 2004 By Editor

The Telegraph:

The dark storm clouds that scrolled over the roofs of Bucharest last night might have brought a deluge that made every Mancunian in town feel at home, but for Sir Alex Ferguson it was just one more problem in a pre-season that has already brought far too many. Weakened by injuries, bedevilled by suspensions, his Manchester United side are now facing up to a Champions League qualifier that looks trickier by the day.

The Scot was in a more chipper mood than you would expect for a man forced to play Dinamo Bucharest in August without nine of his first-team players. His brother Martin, United's chief scout, had been on a reconnoitre mission here last month and reported back, Ferguson said, that United were up against a team who were happy to defend deep and played their European games on a pitch that had an element of the unpredictable in it.

Even the British ambassador in Bucharest arrived at the United hotel to greet Ferguson and assure him that the pitch was fine despite reports that the Romanian army had been working on the pitch at the national stadium to get it ready. Dinamo Bucharest have moved the match from their home ground to the national stadium - now known as the Lia Manoliu stadium - but when the city's skies opened around 6.30pm they hastily switched United's pre-match training session back to their own ground.

A battle in the rain and mud will not be how United want to earn their right to the £15 million guaranteed by a place in the Champions League first round, but the Romanian champions could prove difficult opposition in such unforgiving conditions. The Lia Manoliu was used for an athletics meeting at the weekend that has left it in a poor state and from the groundsman Nicolae Stere came an apocalyptic warning.

"The pitch wasn't that great at all," Stere said. "There's nothing we can do. I told Dinamo when they decided to use the national stadium for this match that the pitch was not great and yet they still wanted to play there."

Fergie: "There's no doubt about the game going ahead. The pitch was pretty bumpy and bare in parts but there has been rain in the last two days so maybe that may help."