Sir Alex Ferguson may turn to Edwin van der Sar as United look to increase the pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea with a win over Burnley at Old Trafford. The United ‘stopper, who joined the squad’s warm weather Qatar training camp, is available following his wife’s recent illness and could take over from Tomasz Kuszczak in goal.
“We’ve had light at the end of the tunnel with Edwin coming back,” said Ferguson in his morning press conference at Carrington on Friday.
“He’s done well. He’s been out for a few weeks with his personal situation. It’s great to see him back and that experience, when he does come into the team, is very important. We’ll see him today and see how he feels but he’s trained every day and is doing well.”
Ferguson, who took his players on a short-notice trip to Qatar this week, confirmed that long-term injury victims Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves trained with the squad in the past last week.
Indeed, Ferguson, who must plan for upcoming matches against Manchester City in the Carling Cup and Arsenal in the Premier League, may spring a surprise and start both Ferdinand and van der Sar against Brian Laws’ men.
However, Dimitar Berbatov will need surgery on a knee injury, the Scot confirmed, which will take place in the summer.
“Dimitar doesn’t want an operation,” said Ferguson.
“Sometimes he feels the injury, other times he doesn’t. It might have been the warmer climes but he didn’t feel it at all in Qatar last week. We are just keeping an eye on it at present.”
Berbatov is available for the The Clarets’ visit and may start along with Wayne Rooney in a two-man attack against the team that inflicted United’s first defeat of the season in August. Meanwhile, Michael Owen will face competition from new recruit Mame Biram Diouf for a spot on an increasingly crowded bench.
In midfield Ferguson will base his selection on Wednesday’s Carling Cup semi-final with Manchester City, with Gabriel Obertan and Darron Gibson likely to play at Eastlands but not in the Premier League. Michael Carrick and Anderson may start in central midfield on Saturday with Darren Fletcher suspended after the Scot’s red card at Birmingham City last weekend.
New Burnley manager Brian Laws, sacked as coach of Championship strugglers Sheffield Wednesday in December, takes charge of his first game at Old Trafford. The surprise choice must do without defender Steven Caldwell and Chris McCann through injury. Andre Bikey is at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. Former United trainee Chris Eagles is fit and will play.
Burnley, who haven’t won in nine Premier League matches, visit Old Trafford just two points above the relegation zone after the departure of former manager Owen Coyle to Bolton Wanderers last week. But, says Laws, all the pressure is on United.
“The pressure has totally transferred on to Manchester United. They are having a sticky moment,” said Laws predictably.
“Burnley deserved the result at the start of the season and the whole country was delighted. It gave a realism back to football and this was what Burnley had been waiting for for 30 years.
“There’s no reason why they can’t go and do it again, everything is possible.”
United meanwhile must take full advantage of Chelsea’s recent dip in form if the team is to put any pressure on the leaders. United, just a point behind the Londoners with a game more played, can retake the Premier League summit should Carlo Ancelotti’s men stumble at home to Sunderland.