United are seeking to rest players ahead of a Champions League final with Barcelona and the Premier League - not to mention its bottom three or four clubs - are getting very jumpy.
Job done: Carrick (left), Rooney, Nani and Ferdinand celebrate the title on Saturday
Two years ago Sir Alex Ferguson took his team to relegation-threatened Hull's KC Stadium as Premier League champions. United were flooded with reserve players but managed to win 1-0. In the end Hull stayed up and Phil Brown sang on the pitch.
TAKING THE MICHAEL Manchester United striker Michael Owen has hit out at the price of tickets for the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley a week on Saturday. Owen said on Twitter: 'Filling out the forms so I can buy my allocation of 16 tickets for the Champions League final. Just seen the price of them. ?225 each. Joke.'
This time round it may not be so simple.There will not be any singing but there could yet be some wailing. WithUnited champions again and facing their foes from Catalonia on May 28, they will play 18th-placed Blackpool at home this Sunday.
The Premier League - along with Wigan, Birmingham, Wolves and Blackburn - will be watching carefully when the team sheets appear at 3.30pm at Old Trafford.
The Premier League were alerted to this possibility a couple of weeks ago and have long since suspected that one of their least favourite issues may crop up.
Ferguson has at least indicated that he too is aware of the problem and has guaranteed nothing less than a professional effort to win the game.
Ferguson said: 'This gives us a real opportunity to look at how we can rest players and who needs to keep going. But we have a responsibility to make sure we are fair to all clubs who are struggling against relegation. 'Manchester United will try to win next Sunday, there is no doubt about that.'
Enlarge There is no reason not to take Ferguson at his word. So professional were his players at Hull two years ago that they could have won by a street.
Also, Ferguson's primary duty is to his own club. If teams go down this Sunday it will not be because of one game at Old Trafford, rather the 37 that have gone before.
Making changes: Fergie is set to rotate his squad
However, the Premier League's Rule E20 states: 'In every League match each participating club should field a full-strength team.'
That wording seems unambiguous, but history tells us otherwise - and it is highly unlikely the League would get involved unless Ferguson chose a virtual youth team.
United, for example, were not fined for fielding a team against Hull that included not one of the players who started against Barcelona in Rome three days later.
Nor were they fined when an under-strength United side lost 1-0 at home to West Ham on the final day of the 2006-07 season, even though Ferguson felt so bad about it that he phoned Neil Warnock, the manager of relegated Sheffield United, to apologise.
However Blackpool, Sunday's opponents, were hit with a ?25,000 sanction when Ian Holloway made 10 changes to his team for a game they lost narrowly at Aston Villa last November.
What has changed since last season is that United have a week between games this time, now that the Champions League final is played on a Saturday rather than a Wednesday.
This may tempt Ferguson to field a slightly stronger team than he may otherwise have done. Indeed, last night Rio Ferdinand suggested the United first-team players would rather go into the Barcelona game on the back of a convincing victory than an afternoon sitting in the stands.
Ferdinand said: 'Looking back to last time, we had two weeks to prepare for the final against Barcelona in Rome and we kind of rested beforehand. But sometimes, if you rest up too much, you can become a little bit lackadaisical.'
On the march: Rio says United would rather go into the Barca game on the back of a win than an afternoon in the stands
Understandably, the defender's priority is being right for the game against Barcelona at Wembley. It has long been acknowledged at United that the performance in losing 2-0 in Rome was among their most disappointing for years.
'You always remember the games you lose more vividly than those you win because they are the ones when you think: "I should have done this or should have done that",' added Ferdinand.
'That game is always in the back of my mind, but we now have a great opportunity to go out there, believe in ourselves and give a better account of ourselves (than in Rome).
'We came off the pitch last time knowing that we hadn't really done ourselves justice, so we need to make sure that doesn't happen again.'
EXCLUSIVE: Be our Pea! England want to snap up Mexican wonderkid Arsenal and Man United on alert as top target Hazard admits he wants to leave Lille No comment! FA refuse to reveal whether Fergie has accepted latest charge Manchester United FC news, features and opinion Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Neil Warnock, Ian Holloway, Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Brown Places: Barcelona, Rome, Birmingham