Sir Alex Ferguson is confident that United travel to face AC Milan in the Champions League this week fighting fit and in great form after an enforced rest this weekend. United’s players, given a couple of days off on FA Cup fourth round weekend, flew to Milan on Monday for a meeting with former Red Devil midfielder David Beckham.
“It’s a good time for us to be going to Milan,” claimed Ferguson, who watched Milan beat Udinese 3-2 on Friday night.
“They played this weekend, they’ve lost Kaká and have a few injuries, whereas we aren’t playing this weekend and we have had a good rest.
“They used Kaká at the head of a diamond and two front players but they have changed that and gone 4-3-3 with two wide players and three centre-midfield players.
“You have to recognise they are not short of skill and experience – Ronaldinho, Pato, all these players – but equally we have players who can win the match, too. After the experience in the San Siro three years ago, where they dominated the game, I know that won’t happen again.”
Ferguson is unlikely to face Beckham from the start, unless striker Alexandre Pato suffers a reaction to a thigh injury that has kept the youngster out since December. The striker was a goalscoring substitute against Udinese Friday night.
Beckham, the LA Galaxy midfielder on loan for the rest of the season, was again benched against Udinese and his brief contribution included a misplaced back-pass that almost gifted Udinese a goal.
“It’s Pato they are desperate to get back in,” Ferguson added of the youngster who has become the mainstay of the Milan attack.
“If he’s not back they’ll play David wide right. We know all about David, he’s a great crosser of the ball so we will have to be alive to that.”
Ferguson, who is without broken-arm victim Ryan Giggs for the San Siro match, is again likely to deploy Wayne Rooney as the lone frontman in a 4-3-3 formation. Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes will form an experienced midfield and Ferguson will pick two of three from Antonio Valencia, Nani and Park Ji-Sung in wide areas.
In defence Ferguson can call on Rio Ferdinand, suspended only for domestic fixtures, although Nemanja Vidic is again a doubt with a long-term trapped nerve. In any case, Ferguson is unlikely to field the pair together, with Jonny Evans in outstanding form.
“My players are used to big occasions and I think the good thing for us now is that we have hit form at just the right time,” added Ferguson.
“We will miss Giggsy, but we have players in great form and working really well. The improvement you see in players like Rooney, Nani and Valencia, who has done a great job for us since coming here, is fantastic and we have Fletcher and Carrick playing out of their skins.
“Scholes is playing well, too. I have players who are playing well at the right time.”
The focus though will be on Beckham as he meets United for the first time since the midfielder’s summer 2003 move to Real Madrid. Ferguson’s distaste for the “circus” that surrounds the player has mellowed little in the intervening years.