Ferguson shuffles his pack

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The Independent Online
Nicky Butt returns to Manchester United's starting line-up tonight against Arsenal at Old Trafford with his manager, Alex Ferguson, reverting to his regular line-up in another attempt to overtake the Premiership leaders, Newcastle United.

United's run of 10 successive wins came to an end at Queen's Park Rangers on Saturday when he made three changes, although it was enough to put them top of for 48 hours. "I feel more than ever that I was justified in making the changes on Saturday and that I did the right thing,'' Ferguson said. "Brian McClair and David May both told me that they were really tired during the second half.

"That shows me that we are going to have to start getting them in for parts of games in order to get their fitness up to the level that we are playing at," added Ferguson, who brings back both Butt and Philip Neville. The latter has been suffering from a calf injury.

Bruce Rioch, the Arsenal manager, has ruled out knee-injury victim Tony Adams even though he came through a full reserve game at Brighton. He will stick with the side that defeated Wimbledon. Ray Parlour is also missing because of suspension and Steve Bould may require surgery on the hamstring injury that has kept him out for three months.

The Southampton manager, Dave Merrington, welcomes back his captain, Barry Venison, from suspension for the crucial relegation scrap against Sheffield Wednesday. Venison has missed the last two games, which have seen the Saints slip to third from bottom of the table.

Tommy Widdrington and Francis Benali also make a return after serving bans, but Merrington has injury worries over another three players. Jim Magilton (groin), Mark Walters (thigh) and Neil Maddison (knee) all missed the weekend defeat at Manchester City and face late fitness tests.

Sheffield Wednesday are likely to be unchanged as Chris Waddle is still unfit with a back problem. Their manager, David Pleat, said: "We should have the benefit of an unchanged side which we have not had very often this season.''

Bolton will be hoping to improve on their home form as they continue their attempt to avoid relegation. Colin Todd's team, now boasting three successive away wins, meet Spurs at Burnden Park looking for a rare home success.

Only once in over four months - against Wimbledon in January - have Bolton recorded a Premiership victory in front of their own fans. "We have to transfer our away performances and results to home soil and we have three games in a row here to put the record straight,'' Todd said. "We had Spurs watched against Blackburn and, although they are missing one or two, they still have individuals who can win a game."

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