Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has come under fire for his last two team selections — and simply must get it right on Sunday.
That’s when United clash with bitter north-west rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford in a match that could have a huge bearing on the Red Devils’ title dreams.
Wayne Rooney, engulfed by off-the-field problems, was left out for United’s visit last Saturday to his former club Everton — amid fears of vitriolic abuse — when the Toffees came from 3-1 down to bag a point thanks to two injury time goals.
Sir Alex then put out what could be described as his ‘Carling Cup’ team — although Rooney was back — for the Champions League showdown with Rangers, clearly with the Liverpool game in mind.
But the plan backfired with United unable to break down their resolute Scottish opponents, the game finishing 0-0.
Sir Alex can afford no more selection slip-ups.
United already trail champions and leaders Chelsea by four points meaning they simply MUST beat Liverpool in Sunday’s lunchtime game as the Stamford Bridge club have what should be a home banker against Blackpool later in the day.
By close of play on Sunday, Chelsea could be as much as seven points ahead of United. That would be one hell of a deficit to peg back against a side of Chelsea’s quality. A win over Liverpool would at least mean the gap couldn’t increase.
To get that crucial victory in what is a powderkeg match, Sir Alex simply must go for experience, with a team comprising several battle-hardened veterans.
His biggest selection call could involve Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans.
If Sir Alex is confident Rio Ferdinand — who played against Rangers — is fully fit after his comeback from a knee injury, then the central defender will start alongside Nemanja Vidic.
Evans will come in if Fergie is in any doubt. Gary Neville is not known for his love of Scousers and will bring bags of experience to the right back role, while Patrice Evra — left out against Rangers — returns at left back.
It’s got to be Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher in the middle of the field, flanked by Ryan Giggs and Nani.
Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov will be handed the chief attacking roles.