David Sadler column
The rehabilitation process for Manchester United's shadow team against West Ham will surely have to be put on hold. It was a damaging night at Upton Park in the Carling Cup for a number of the Reds up- and- coming fringe players with the 4-0 defeat. Following on from the 7-1 Premier League thrashing of Blackburn it emphasised the gap between the first choices and those with aspirations to become among Fergie's elite. Those in the latter group who were hurt at the Hammers will have wanted to get back into action quickly. But I think they may have to wait sometime because of the league programme United face up to Christmas. The Reds have back-to-back table topping clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea. It starts next Monday at home against Arsene Wenger's current leaders and then the visit to troubled champions Chelsea. Those games will not decide the outcome of the title race but there is no doubt some damage can be inflicted or suffered. Sir Alex will want his best XI available for both and he will want them sharp and on fire. That is why I suspect we might see a strong side against Valencia tonight. Having already qualified from Group C this would probably have been an occasion to test a few more of the younger players on the European stage. But I think the Carling Cup defeat and the Blackpool postponement at the weekend might have cost them another opportunity. It will be 17 days between the Blackburn match and the Arsenal fixture without a match for Fergie's first choices. That is not an ideal break kicking your heels when you are going into a match of such magnitude against the Gunners. That's why I think it will be a strong side tonight and, obviously, there is also the target of finishing top of the group, to avoid teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid in the last 16. What do you think? Have your say.
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