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United strike duo looks for more goals vs Braga

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) -Having quickly gelled as a strike partnership, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will look to supply Manchester United's goals against Braga on Tuesday to put their team on the brink of qualification for the Champions League knockout stage.

United has scored nine goals in the three games Rooney and Van Persie have started together, the most recent being a 4-2 victory over Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday when both players were on target.

With manager Alex Ferguson taking no chances this year after seeing his team surprisingly eliminated in the group stage last season, he should have no hesitation to keep his star strikers together for the visit of the Portuguese club to Old Trafford.

"Things are going well and our understanding is getting better all the time," said Van Persie, who joined United from Arsenal in August. "Everyone could see from day one that we were working well together. We like to play together and we help each other."

United won its first two Group H games and two more victories from the upcoming double-header against Braga will see the team advance with two matches to spare, leaving it to concentrate on the domestic campaign in England.

"It does help the league form if you can get through early," United midfielder Michael Carrick said. "The manager can change things around. He can rest players. He can use the squad and give players game time. The pressure is off.

"It is not always possible. Sometimes it can go down to the last game, which in itself is not always a bad thing. Overall, though, it is better to get it done and dusted."

Braga and Romanian minnow Cluj, which visits Galatasaray in the other group game, both have three points and the likely battle to finish second behind United could go down to the very last round. Galatasaray has lost both its games so far.

Braga is way off the form that secured the team third place in the Portuguese league last season. It needed two hours last weekend to beat second-division club Leixoes in a Portuguese Cup game, eventually winning 3-0 after extra time.

Eder, one of the scorers in that match, has scored four goals in six Portuguese league games this season and is the man most likely to threaten a United defense that has appeared wobbly at times this campaign, especially at home.

"We're giving ourselves uphill fights," Ferguson said. "There's no doubt our attacking play has been the strongest part of our game. But we're letting in goals at home and that's disappointing."

Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, two of the team's most experienced defenders, will be rested for the game ahead of Sunday's Premier League match against Chelsea.

Ferdinand was criticized by Ferguson on Saturday for refusing to wear a T-shirt ahead of the Stoke game promoting an anti-racism campaign.

Ferdinand boycotted the campaign, as did many other players in the Premier League, in protest at what he perceives to be a lack of strong action among governing bodies and anti-discrimination bodies in the fight against racism.

Ferguson accused the center back of letting the club down, and even hinted at disciplinary action, but said Monday their differences have been resolved.

"There is no issue," Ferguson said. "There was a communication problem."

Midfielders Shinji Kagawa, Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs, who all sat out Saturday's win over Stoke that kept United in second place in the Premier League, are likely to return.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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