United’s squad is taking on a decidedly healthier look as the New Year dawns and the Barclays Premier League title push begins – and Sir Alex Ferguson can enjoy his birthday on New Year's Eve even more because of it.
The Reds have done valiantly in the face of horrendous defensive injury problems to remain well-placed in the title race. Now several key figures – namely Gary Neville, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand – are making their way back into contention for January’s fixtures to boost United even further.
“The key for us has been having two centre-backs available,” Sir Alex told MUTV after the 5-0 win over Wigan. “[Wes] Brown and [Nemanja] Vidic were excellent again tonight, as they were against Hull. If we get the rest of them back, we have a real chance because we’re in good form. So I can have a happy birthday now!
“Gary could play on Sunday [against Leeds in the FA Cup], and Jonny is also training so he might be in contention. Rio has also started training and he is doing some good running now so he shouldn’t be far away. There has been no recurrence of the back injury for Rio, which is good news."
The three cup ties – against Leeds in the FA Cup third round, and the Carling Cup semi-final double-header with Manchester City – affords the boss an opportunity to shuffle his pack and bring those players back into the fray.
“The hat comes out and the names are going in,” he joked about his approach to team selection. “I’ll be picking different teams, no doubt about it. Some of the young ones will get a crack at those games and they deserve it. We’ll see how we get on.”