Manchester United take on Chelsea in a Saturday lunchtime fixture that is pivotal to Premier League’s destination this season. With the Londoners a point behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, United can afford to draw at Old Trafford. The Scot, typically bullish, says that United must aim to win, even without crocked striker Wayne Rooney.
Rooney aside, United heads into the match with a cleaner bill of health than at many stages this season.
With the Scouser on the sidelines for at least a fortnight, Ferguson will also be without Anderson and Michael Owen for the fixture. However, one or both of John O’Shea and Owen Hargreaves could make the bench at Old Trafford with an otherwise fully-fit squad.
The focus is naturally on 34-goal Rooney’s absence on Saturday, with many pundits declaring the former Evertonian the difference between United and Chelsea this season. Despite the blow to United’s hopes, Ferguson proffered good news about Rooney on Friday morning.
“Two to three weeks I think, it’s not as serious as it looked in the beginning and obviously in that time he’ll miss some important games but he’ll be back before the end of the season,” said Ferguson of Rooney’s injury.
“We’re relieved, particularly when I saw him hobbling off like he did. You’re hoping when you send a player for a scan or an X-ray that you’re going to get some good news out of it, and we’ve got good news out of it.
“It could have been worse, the way he hobbled off. So that’s out of the way now, we can put it aside and get on with picking our team without him.”
Ferguson has little choice but to place faith in 12 goal striker Dimitar Berbatov on Saturday, with only youngsters Mame Biram Diouf and Federico Macheda offering alternative striking options.
Despite the Bulgarian record goalscorer showing outstanding form over the past month the Scot has repeatedly left the £30 million striker on the bench this season, with his faith placed in a single-striker system.
“It was hard to leave Berbatov out because he’s been in such great form,” added Ferguson.
“Against Bayern, we went with the tried and trusted one striker with three central midfielders but he’ll start against Chelsea this week. He’s experienced, I’m sure he’ll do well.”
United lost at Stamford Bridge earlier this season to John Terry’s controversial headed goal, with manager and players criticising referee Martin Atkinson for awarding a dubious free-kick in the build up to the defender’s goal.
Yet Ferguson is confident that home advantage and an attacking outlook will bring the victory that could seal a record 19th domestic title and fourth Premier League trophy in a row.
“Old Trafford is always an advantage so hopefully we’ll maintain that,” Ferguson said today.
“It’s never easy against top teams but as we showed against Liverpool that we’ve got the wherewithal to win the game. We have to try and win.”
Despite the disappointing result and performance against Bayern Munich Ferguson does not plan to make wholesale changes to the side that has been given just three days rest.
However, with Chelsea out of Europe and United’s post-Champions League record fairly poor this season – the side has lost on four occasions – Ferguson is likely to freshen his options. Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs, who both missed the midweek fixture in Germany, will likely join Berbatov in the side.
“I only have to make one change tomorrow but I may make two or three depending on how I see the game,” said Ferguson.
“Chelsea’s only advantage is that they’ve played less.”