Ferguson ponders the Giggs dilemma

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The Independent Online
It is not a question most Premiership managers would waste time on. "Ryan Giggs is available - shall I play him?" While Everton are desperate to field their half-fit hero, Duncan Ferguson, and his hobbling side-kick, Paul Rideout, in tomorrow's FA Cup final, Manchester United are considering leaving Giggs on the bench.

"He's fit, but whether he will play or not is a different matter," Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, admitted at Old Trafford yesterday.

There could me no starker indication of the riches at Ferguson's disposal. Everton are not short of a bob or two themselves, but they have nothing like the cumulative quality United possess, even if there were further indications yesterday that one of those gems, Andrei Kanchelskis, wants to leave.

Ferguson's uncertainty revolves around Giggs' lack of match fitness. He has not played since the replayed semi-final with Crystal Palace and missed the last six matches of United's championship run-in. The hamstring injury he suffered against Palace was expected to end his season, but intensive treatment has proved successful. "Ryan trained today and did well," Ferguson said. "He has come on really well in the last few days. He has given me an unexpected poser."

Even if Giggs does play Ferguson is not sure whether to use him out wide - where Everton look weak - or as a straight replacement for Andy Cole alongside Mark Hughes. Giggs for Cole is likely to be the only change from the 13 that narrowly failed to beat West Ham on Sunday, and thus lost the title to Blackburn.

Ferguson said he believed his team would overcome the shock of last Sunday's failure: "I believe they have the character to handle adversity. There is a resilience about this team and what happened last Sunday will not affect their performance at Wembley.

"It will not give us any more determination. What it will give is a reminder of how fickle football can be. Anyone who saw that game would have put their house on us to win with 15 minutes to go. It showed you can never be sure - which is a nice lesson coming into a final."

It is Ferguson's 11th visit to Wembley in six years and he added: "Any time you go there is special. Some great managers have never taken their teams there, some great players never played there. It makes you appreciate how lucky you are."

One player who does not seem to agree is Kanchelskis, who will be at Wembley, but will not play due to a deep-seated hernia problem. While the back pages of the last night's Manchester Evening News were anticipating more Old Trafford glory, Kanchelskis's manager, Grigory Esaylenko, was being quoted on the front stating that his player wanted to leave.

"He does not want to be there," Esaylenko said. "He loves the club, he loves the players, he loves the fans. But he cannot work with the manager. It is a personal thing, man-to-man. His heart is not in it. He is not happy. He asks daily if he can leave but the manager says `no'."

Kanchelskis claims Ferguson did not speak to him for two months after he developed a mysterious stomach injury, but Ferguson last night said it was "nonsense" to suggest the pair were not talking.

Ferguson added: "We had a communication problem at one point but that is behind us now and I am counting on Andrei for next season."

Ferguson also dismissed claims that Manchester City wanted Brian Kidd to take over as their new manager as "wishful thinking on their part." Whoever does take over at Maine Road will be reminded of the size of their task when United step out at Wembley tomorrow - especially if Giggs is on the bench.

FA Cup countdown, page 38