MANCHESTER, England - The Premier League
trophy was not even in the cabinet when Manchester United
manager Sir Alex Ferguson switched his attention to picking a team
to beat Barcelona to add the European Cup to his haul.
United face Barcelona on Saturday in the 2011 Champions League Final and Ferguson was already pondering his lineup for the huge
task of beating the hot favourites while the fireworks were
still going off to celebrate domestic success on Sunday.
"I think I could pick four or five teams for next week and
they wouldn't let us down," he told MUTV.
Ferguson has attributed this season's success to using the
full potential of a strong squad, highlighted by a procession of
21 players being presented with Premier League winners' medals,
all eligible as they had made 10 appearances or more.
It gives him plenty of options to choose from next weekend
- a clear sign that the lines between fringe player and starter
are not as clear as usual - but the reality is that only the
best will do.
Asked if he had finalised his starting XI, Ferguson said:
"Not entirely but we've got the nucleus who deserve their place
and there are others who deserve a place.
"But I can only pick 11 and that's the horrible part of
being a manager now. At a cup final, it's absolute agony and
something you don't relish at all but I have to do it."
With Ferguson keen to avoid the mistakes that led to defeat
by the Spaniards in the 2009 final, when he rested many of his
first-choice players for an end-of-season league game against
Hull City only for them to then lose 2-0 to Barca, he played a
stronger-than-expected side for Sunday's last domestic game at
home to Blackpool that ended with a 4-2 victory.
Having already wrapped up the title, United had been
expected by many pundits to field a second-string side but
instead big game players like Nemanja Vidic, Edwin van der Sar,
Park Ji-sung and Nani were among the starters.
There were of course notable players like Rio Ferdinand,
Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs either on the
bench or rested altogether but there were certainly more
possible Wembley starters involved than many had predicted.
"I have to pick a team and leave some very good players
out," Ferguson said.
"Hopefully, those who have all played a part in the
European campaign this season will feel satisfaction at the end
of the night at Wembley and we'll win the cup."
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