Sir Alex Ferguson will make numerous changes to the team that beat Arsenal for Saturday lunch-time’s crucial trip to Middlesbrough.
With a quick turnaround between trips to the Riverside and the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday for the Champions League semi-final, second leg, Sir Alex will freshen up his starting eleven against Gareth Southgate’s men.
As if the threat of relegation isn’t enough to fire up Boro’s players, they always seem to raise their game for United’s visit. But the Reds are keen not to let slip a three-point lead over second-placed Liverpool, who entertain Newcastle in Sunday’s 13:30 BST kick-off.
“I have got a squad, and I intend to use it,” says Sir Alex. “The midfield will change and the players up front will also probably change. I’ll bring some freshness into the team in some important areas.
“There’s Paul Scholes, Darron Gibson, Ji-sung Park and Nani, who didn’t play against Arsenal. But I won’t change my back four, which will be much the same apart from Rio. But up front I’ve got Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck, and they may be involved.”
Arsenal have an advantage in that, with four place practically secured, they can rest players for their visit to Portsmouth on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).
“That’s Arsenal’s big advantage really,” added the Reds boss. “They could play Pat Rice [Arsenal assistant manager] at right-back and Arsene centre-forward if they like. It doesn’t matter so much for them. We have to play a team to win against Middlesbrough. It’s a lunchtime kick-off, which I don’t think is right. But we have to get on with it.”
United came unstuck in a similar situation in 2007 when a Saturday lunchtime kick-off against Everton drained the Reds’ resources before a semi-final second leg against Milan, which United lost 3-0. But Sir Alex says his side is better equipped now.