Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

I’ll pick Manchester United team, blasts Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson has no intention of letting any outside forces influence his Manchester United team selection.

Despite his club record £30.75million price tag, Ferguson still left Dimitar Berbatov out of his starting line-up to face Arsenal on Wednesday.

The on-going uncertainty over Carlos Tevez’s United future will not save him either on Tuesday should Ferguson decide the Argentina star is not what he needs for the Champions League semi-final second-leg at the Emirates Stadium.

It is part of a focus that has stood Ferguson in good stead throughout his managerial career, most famously when he axed goalkeeper Jim Leighton for the 1990 FA Cup final replay with Crystal Palace after a miserable performance in the first game at Wembley.

And, no matter what the circumstances, Ferguson will not change.

"Players react differently," said the United boss.

"Some accept it, others find it hard. It depends on the nature of the personalities. But it doesn’t deflect me from picking what I feel is the correct team.

"In 1990, I made the right decision. I was disappointed for the lad at the time because Jim took it badly but that is why I speak to my players before I pick my team.

"You cannot think about how much a player costs when you are picking a team.

"Once that player is signed it is not as if you can go to the tax man and ask for a rebate if he doesn’t play.

"Others might not agree with my choice and the recent FA Cup semi-final was a case in point.

"But I never allow anyone to cloud my judgement. I am very clear-minded about that."

Ferguson is facing another predicament for the trip to Middlesbrough today, knowing he must keep an element of freshness in his squad for the Arsenal rematch, when his team will attempt to defend a slender lead and set up a Champions League final in Rome against either Barcelona or Chelsea.

The one obvious bit of good news is that Rio Ferdinand, while not fit enough to make the journey to Teesside, could make it to the Emirates after X-rays revealed the damage to his ribs suffered in a collision with Edwin van der Sar in midweek is not as extensive as first feared.

"When we saw him get a crack in the rib area, you fear the worst, particularly because he was coughing a bit of blood," revealed Ferguson.

"Fortunately that has passed over now.

"He has a bit of bruising on the lung but there is nothing cracked or broken so there is a good chance we can get him ready for Tuesday."

Jonny Evans will replace Ferdinand at Middlesbrough, with Wes Brown returning to the bench as United look to maintain their three point advantage over Liverpool.

Paul Scholes, Park Ji-sung, Nani and Ben Foster are all set to be included as well, although the number of changes may not be quite as extensive as Ferguson originally indicated.

"The funny thing is the players are quite buoyed up and want to play," said Ferguson.

"Our performance on Wednesday helps, although I have to make sure there is the right kind of freshness so we get the balance in the team right."

On the face of it, a Saturday lunchtime kick-off is ideal for the Red Devils as it gives them the maximum preparation time before the crunch encounter with Arsenal.

However, Ferguson is not too impressed, believing his side would have benefited more from a 3pm kick-off, as the Gunners will have at Portsmouth.

Not that such a scenario was likely for a game that could have a major impact on both ends of the table.

"Teams who play in Europe on a Wednesday should not have a lunchtime kick-off on a Saturday," he said. "That goes for all teams, not just us.

"You would think these guys sitting in an office all week would think about these things.

"But when you shake hands with the devil you pay the price."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk