Ferguson defends his decision to rest key players for Rome

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson believes his key players would never forgive him if he gambled with their fitness 72 hours before one of the biggest games of their lives and will rest a number of star performers at Hull tomorrow.

With a Champions League trophy to defend in Rome against Barcelona on Wednesday, Ferguson is taking no risks even if Hull's relegation rivals – Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough – believe his actions are unfair.

But instead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez turning out on Humberside, a sell-out KC Stadium crowd is likely to be treated to an ageing Gary Neville, a young Danny Welbeck and Darren Fletcher, who is suspended against Barcelona.

"My players wouldn't forgive me if I played the strongest team tomorrow," said Ferguson. "They would say 'what?'. It would be the best thing that could happen to Hull really.

"They would relish that. The rest of the league may think that's good because United are playing their strongest team, but it could be the worst thing that could happen to us.

"I was contemplating ringing the three managers involved. They know what it is like to play against Manchester United so I dismissed that idea. They will know we will be doing our best."