Sir Alex Ferguson's dilemma over which goalkeeper should be his No 1 was revealed last night when he snapped at a TV presenter, accusing her of “looking for stupid little things” by asking if £18.5m David de Gea might be dropped for Sunday's match against Chelsea.
Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, who has made no secret of his belief that he has a call on being first-choice, pulled off fine saves to preserve Manchester United's 1-1 Champions League draw at Benfica.
The dilemma created prompted Ferguson to lose his tempter with the ITV presenter Kelly Cates, the daughter of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish.
“David de Gea will play on Sunday. That was the understanding we had before the game. I don't know why you ask these questions, you're just looking for stupid little things,” Ferguson told Cates.
His response to Cates came 23 years after Ferguson complained of managers leaving Anfield “choking on their own vomit”, prompting Dalglish to reply reporters would get more sense out of his then six-week-old daughter Lauren than from Ferguson.
Cates — then Kelly Dalglish — was a Setanta pitch side reporter in 2008 when she told Ferguson she wanted to ask him about a Christmas party that led to the arrest of Jonny Evans over rape allegations. Ferguson declined.
Evans was again in the spotlight last night with some slack defending that allowed Benfica to take the lead through Oscar Cardozo on 24 minutes.
Nicolas Gaitan produced a delightful pass for Cardozo but Northern Ireland defender Evans should have stopped the Benfica player before he got his shot in.
With so much competition at the back for United, it was an error that Evans could well have done without.
Under pressure after going behind, United were thankful to Lindegaard’s excellence, until a brilliant Ryan Giggs strike before the break brought the Red Devils level.
After the match Lindegaard reasserted that he wants to be No 1. Asked about challenging for the first-team spot, the 27-year-old said: “What answer do you expect to that question? I've said a thousand times before I'm not here to pick my nose.”
Ferguson later reiterated his faith in De Gea.
“I was very impressed with Anders, but we've got two great goalkeepers actually, in Anders and David,” he said.
“We were always getting to the moment when we were going to share that.
“David will play against Chelsea on Sunday and possibly Anders will play against Leeds United on Tuesday.
“There are opportunities to spread that load, because coming over to the English game (for De Gea), it's such a competitive intense league for a young goalkeeper.
“There will come a time when I need to give him a break.”
Lindegaard was not selected for United's win at Bolton last Saturday, despite Ferguson apparently giving serious thought to protecting De Gea from the aerial threat which punished him at West Bromwich Albion on the opening weekend of the season.
“It was very amusing, great fun and that's the most important part of why you play football — fun,” said Lindegaard about facing Benfica.
“There's always a bit of nerves and if there isn't then it's not that enjoyable.
“It makes me feel alive. I'm satisfied with my performance, just a bit sad that I didn't save the first goal.”
The goal from Giggs took the Welshman ahead of Denis Law in the list of United goalscorers in Europe, with 39.
It was a strike of “terrific quality,” said Ferguson, who added that record signing Dimitar Berbatov will get games this season despite being left on the bench again last night.
Berbatov has made just one appearance this season, coming on as a second-half substitute in United's opening Premier League match at West Brom.
“It is hard because of the number of strikers we have,” Ferguson said.
“Michael Owen is there, Federico Macheda, Mame Biram Diouf. Danny Welbeck won't be back next week but probably the week after. It is not easy.
“Dimitar has been training terrific. His attitude is spot on.
“He will get his game time as the season wears on. There is no question about that.”