Manchester United travel to Barnsley today with the hope of getting a result which will help put the disappointment of the weekend behind us.
Of course, we won’t be seeing the same line-up who started at Anfield but with strong competition for places in the squad, the team won’t be made up or just youngsters.
Darren Fletcher has been battling against injury and might get a run out this evening to get him match-ready for the weekend. His last appearance for us was almost four weeks ago and if possible it would be good for him to get some competitive football under his belt before the weekend, if he is to be ready for the weekend.
Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck are both likely to start but the manager might be tempted to give Michael Owen more football, in which case, Welbeck would play on the wing. Macheda was sacrificed in our third round match against Wolves after Fabio got sent off early on so I imagine the manager will be keen to give him the full 90 minutes tonight. Whilst the temptation is to wrap Owen up in cotton wool to make sure we keep him fit, it is also important that Owen gets time on the field and the opportunities to score goals to keep his confidence up.
Gary Neville is another player who will battling it out with a youngster to get in the team, with Rafael now recovered from his shoulder injury and eager to make that right-back position in the first XI his. Nobody has laid claim to it so far this season so tonight will be a good opportunity for him to shine, whilst Fabio will be hoping to kick on from his impressive performance against CSKA Moscow last week.
Anderson has offered to play for the Reserves this season to help win a starting position in the starting team and was unfortunate to miss out on playing against Liverpool. He can provide the kind of tenacity you need in big games and would obviously love the opportunity to show the manager he was wrong with his selection by putting in a good performance tonight.
Darron Gibson would be hoping to partner Anderson in the centre of the park. Since his 20 minutes run-out in our Premiership game against Wigan towards the start of the season, Gibson has only had one other appearance for the first team, and that was against Wolves in the last round. He turned 22 on Sunday and will conscious of how much more time he can afford to spend with United when playing such little football. Danny Simpson has all but admitted defeat this week, claiming he would like to follow in Nicky Butt’s shoes and sign on permanently at Newcastle, but Gibson will hopefully feel like he has some way to go yet.
Wes Brown and Jonny Evans will probably be starting in the centre of the defence with the quiet hope of displacing Rio Ferdinand from the starting team. Sir Alex has been critical of the defender’s recent form on a couple of occasions now so both Evans and Brown will be hoping they can catch the manager’s eye and convince them they can do a better job. With any luck, an impressive performance from those two will keep Rio on his toes and help him sort his form out.
Nani got a run out an Anfield but Ferguson preferred Giggs and Valencia to start on the wings. The lad is talented but as yet he has failed to perform on a consistently high level, which maybe is any surprise given that he spent last season and this season so far in and out of the team. He got 90 minutes against Besiktas, then didn’t even get off the bench against City, then was subbed off against Stoke on 56 minutes, didn’t even get subbed on against Wolfsburg, played 90 minutes against Sunderland, didn’t get off the bench against Bolton, played 90 minutes against CSKA Moscow then got 15 minutes against Liverpool. I understand that chances are limited with a squad like ours but all our other players competing for a starting XI place have at least being given a starting role over a long period of time, something never afforded to Nani.
Tosic will also be competing for a spot on the wings after scoring in the International break but the biggest story as far as selection goes belongs to Gabriel Obertan, the surprise signing who joined Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia in the summer. Ferguson confirmed that Obertan will be making his debut tonight and after spending the summer awaiting a “big name signing” United fans are full of anticipation of what this French lad has to offer. Laurent Blanc was surprised but Ferguson insisted we’d been following him for years. People have been hailing him to be “the next Henry” but I’d settle for him being a decent enough winger. He’s only 20 so let’s hope tonight is just the beginning of a successful career for him at United.
Ritchie de Laet and Joshua King will also be hoping for a run out tonight although chances are it will be from the bench.
All in all, not quite the developing youth cup this used to be for us, but I’m hoping to see good performances from the fringe players in the hope we’ll see fewer performances like the one we endured on Sunday!
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