Alex Ferguson ponders playing Ji-Sung Park against Manchester City to add solidity to United midfield
Sir Alex Ferguson is giving deep consideration to recalling Ji-Sung Park tonight for his first Premier League start in three months – a move which reflects his determination to take at least a point from the Etihad.
United have been working for several days in training with a system in which Park operates in a packed, five-man midfield, with Wayne Rooney the solitary striker. Ferguson also sees experience as critical to the effort to secure a point which would leave United four points away from their 20th title with two games to play. But in a sign that Roberto Mancini is also disinclined to gamble with an attacking starting XI, Nigel de Jong is under consideration for a start in a formation which would see Yaya Touré pushed on to operate behind a lone striker – mirroring Ferguson's own thinking.
The impact Tevez has made and City's greater need of a win may well tilt Mancini to the view that he and Sergio Aguero must be in the City starting XI. Mario Balotelli is almost certain to be kept on the bench. Mancini goes into the game with no injury problems. With Micah Richards recovered from a hamstring problem to take his place in Mancini's first-choice back four, six will be selected from Touré, De Jong, Gareth Barry, James Milner, David Silva, Tevez and Aguero, with some players missing out altogether and watching from the stand.
Ferguson has indicated that his coaching staff have been working on "two or three things" and Park has been one of them. He has slipped almost entirely out of favour, with no game time since the Europa League elimination in Bilbao on 15 March.
Park’s selection risks reducing Rooney to a frustrated individual in the lone striker role. He also operated there, with Park and Giggs behind in a five-man midfield, for the desperate Champions League exit at Basle on December 7. Both Luis Nani and Jonny Evans involved for the entirety of Saturday morning’s training session at their South Wales get-away. Nani appears to be fit and unders consideration, having missed some of the practice match that followed Friday’ fitness session after taking a heavy challenge to his ankle. Jonny Evans, who sustained a foot injury against Everton eight days ago, is likely to miss. He missed much of last week's training, though did participate fully on Saturday. United left the Vale hotel and golf complex in heavy rain early yesterday morning.
Nani appears to be fit and unders consideration, having missed some of the practice match that followed Friday’ fitness session after taking a heavy challenge to his ankle.
Jonny Evans, who sustained a foot injury against Everton eight days ago, is likely to miss. He missed much of last week's training, though did participate fully on Saturday.
United left the Vale hotel and golf complex in heavy rain early yesterday morning.
Al Wasl, the club Diego Maradona manages in the United Arab Emirates, claimed yesterday that he would be flying into Manchester for tonight's game to see his son-in-law Sergio Aguero.
Ferguson's preparations have been boosted by Paul Scholes offering the first clear indication that wants at least one more season before he finally retires for good. Scholes' return from retirement, before January's FA Cup win over tonight's opponents, has revived his club's season and the 37-year-old revealed in an interview for the French Telefoot channel broadcast yesterday: "Probably I was not quite ready [for coaching]. I don't know what the future holds but I'll get another chance [at coaching] in a couple of years."
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