For the first time in months Sir Alex Ferguson has an almost fully fit squad to choose from ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Bolton Wanderers this weekend. Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are fit for the Saturday tea-time kick off against Owen Coyle’s side, with John O’Shea and Owen Hargreaves also close.
Ferguson’s side makes the short trip across Lancashire in search of three vital points with just seven games remaining in the Premier League season. Buoyed by Chelsea’s failure to beat Blackburn last weekend, United sit proudly at the head of the title race knowing that destiny is in the team’s hands.
However, with Chelsea yet to make the trip to Old Trafford and a visit to Eastlands for the Manchester derby coming up Ferguson is aware that United must not only beat Bolton on Saturday but contribute handsomely to the side’s goal difference.
“Chelsea’s win the other night has brought them level with us on goal difference and goals could be important,” said Ferguson on Friday.
“I’ve said that a few times over the years but I just have a feeling I’m going to be right this time. We’ve always been in a strong position with goal difference over the years, but it’s very tight this time.
“The only way to solve it from our perspective is to win our games starting with Bolton on Saturday.”
Indeed, the Londoners’ 5-0 destruction of Portsmouth also means that Carlo Ancelotti’s side has scored more goals than United this season – a key differentiator should the title race come down to goal difference. But with Arsenal also in action on Saturday, Ferguson is aware of the real threat Arsène Wenger’s side has become in the title race
“On paper they have the easier run-in, but at this time of the season I’m not sure that theory works or means anything,” Ferguson added.
“You can drop points anywhere as Chelsea did at Blackburn and your advantage on paper all of a sudden doesn’t look so good. I don’t think you can say with certainty you’d be confident going anywhere at this time of the season and winning.
“We just have to rely on our experience and hopefully we can keep a relatively clean bill of health between now and the end of the season. The name of the game is to win your games and hopefully we can do that. That’s our best way of looking forward.”
United will do that with Rooney in the side tomorrow after the club’s top goalscorer overcame minor bruising to his knee. The 34-goal forward is likely to partner Dimitar Berbatov in a two-man attack at the Reebok Stadium.
Meanwhile, Ryan Giggs could replace Nani on the left side of United’s midfield with the Welshman fully fit after a broken arm. Giggs, who came on as a substitute against Liverpool last week, has not started a United match in over a month.
Neither Hargreaves nor O’Shea make United’s squad for the short trip but with the Canadian-born midfielder joining first team training this week expect a return this season. Meanwhile, Irishman O’Shea trained on Thursday and will join the first team squad for United’s fixture against Chelsea on 3 April.