FOOTBALL NEWS

28/04/2009 13:19, Report by Nick Coppack

Reds decide plan of attack

United's hopes of defending the Champions League trophy have been boosted by an almost totally clean bill of health ahead of Wednesday's semi-final, first leg against Arsenal.

Only Gary Neville joins long-term absentee Owen Hargreaves on the injury list, giving Sir Alex Ferguson a bulging squad as he looks to outwit Arsene Wenger. "Everyone's fit, apart from Gary," he told reporters on Tuesday. "It's a strong position to be in going into a Champions League semi-final."

That in itself poses problems as Sir Alex admits he's "wrestling" with ideas of how to approach the match. "I’ve got to pick the right team, and I have plenty of options. I’ll wrestle with those options in the next 24 hours.

"There are many decisions to be made: the performance in the second half against Tottenham, in particular, and the way that Carlos Tevez changed the game. That’s not lost on me."

The exhilarating way in which Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov ripped into Tottenham makes playing all four players, against an Arsenal defence that has creaked in recent weeks, is a huge temptation. But goals conceded at home can prove fatal in European ties, and the boss is keen to guard against it.

"It’s an untypical semi-final because it’s two English teams," he added. "But the principles are the same. You hope you win your home game and don’t lose a goal. That’s always the case. But it won’t be decided on Wednesday, I feel sure of that.

"There'll be a lot of football left to play at the Emirates. Looking at the tie itself and the players on view, it's a perfect semi-final, full of terrific footballers and both teams play good football. The games have an appetising look about them."

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