Manchester United make the short trip across Lancashire without Wayne Rooney, whose aggravated ankle injury will keep the striker on the sidelines for another week. With five games remaining United’s only realistic hope of taking the Premier League title is with a string of wins on the bounce – starting with Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers.
“Bouncing back is in the nature of our club and is part of our history,” said Ferguson in a combative press conference on Friday morning.
“We’ve got five games to go and we need to win them, starting on Sunday.”
With Rooney out Sir Alex Ferguson will again turn to Dimitar Berbatov, whose performance against Chelsea last weekend drew stinging criticism from United supporters and media alike.
Accused of slowing United’s attacking impetus when deployed as the lone striker – in contrast to the Scouser’s dynamism – the Bulgarian faces one last chance opportunity to save the Reds’ season.
Ferguson, reluctant to break the striker’s fragile confidence this side of the summer, defended Berbatov on Friday.
“He is a good player and there is absolutely no reason why we should doubt that. Dimitar he has done well in a lot of games recently but we prefer to play with one striker,” said Ferguson.
“When we got the man sent off on Wednesday there was no need to bring a striker on because all we were trying to do was go over the line in terms of defending.”
The Scot could still turn to Federico Macheda, goalscorer in United’s loss to Chelsea, if he gambles on two striker’s at Ewood Park, although it is more likely the young Italian will feature from the bench.
In defence John O’Shea, substitute on Wednesday, could make the side ahead of Rafael da Silva at right-back. Although the Brazilian’s red card put paid to United’s chances in the Champions League, Ferguson rewarded Rafael’s outstanding performance with high praise.
Ji-Sung Park could come into midfield ahead of Wednesday’s goalscorer Darron Gibson, although Michael Carrick’s performance places the former Spurs playmaker’s place at risk.
Untied travel without Wes Brown, out for another fortnight, and long-term injury victims Owen Hargreaves, Michael Owen and Anderson.
With Blackburn in good form – four wins in a row – there is little doubt United faces a difficult proposition at Ewood Park even if the 1995 Premier League winners are now safe from the risk of relegation.
Indeed Allardyce, Ferguson’s close friend, bristled at suggestions Rovers will roll over for the Scot’s side.
“I take offence at the idea we will allow United to come here and have the points,” said Allardyce
“There is no chance of that. The only favours I dish out are by beating other teams that are close to them. You always want to do well against United and not because I am friendly with Sir Alex but because it is a local derby.”
With Chelsea in FA Cup action United will return to the summit of the Premier League with victory in the Sunday lunchtime kick-off. For Ferguson, anything else is unthinkable.
United: 4-2-3-1: van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Carrick; Valencia, Park, Nani; Berbatov