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Ferguson faces age-old problem
Sir Alex Ferguson insists it has never been easy leaving players out at Manchester United.
Whilst Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney are acknowledged to be automatic choices in Ferguson's first-choice starting XI, compelling evidence has been provided of alternative options over the past seven days.
Javier Hernandez might struggle to get his first United hat-trick but there is little doubt the Mexican's introduction changed the entire course of last week's game at Aston Villa.
Then on Wednesday, Danny Welbeck scored England's equaliser in their 4-2 defeat in Sweden, thus confirming his status as the Three Lions' top scorer during 2012. Yet, to start with all four at Norwich on Saturday is impossible, meaning disappointment for someone is inevitable. However, even in an era where egos tend to be inflated much more than before, and therefore deflation much more obvious, Ferguson can see no change to the situation he has always had to face. "It is no harder," said the Scot. "Teddy Sheringham was never happy being left out. Andy Cole certainly wasn't.
He would grump and groan for three days because he wanted to play all the time. "I have no problem with that. "The important thing is do have to feel as though you are being fair and that they are making a contribution over the course of the season. "That is what the four of them did (in 1999). They all scored such important goals. The legend of Sheringham and Solskjaer scoring the goals in Barcelona will always remain. "You can't dismiss that."
Already Ferguson has stepped back slightly from his post-Villa statement that Hernandez would start at Norwich, saying now that the Mexican "should" play. For Welbeck, the situation is even less certain. By Ferguson's own admission, the 21-year-old has performed better for England this year than United, largely because Roy Hodgson has been able to accommodate Welbeck in the central position he prefers. "It is difficult," said Ferguson. "I don't know how I can answer that other than to say you tend to rely on the experience of Robin and Wayne, who are both great players. "At the moment, we have tended to play Danny wide left, which is maybe a bit unfair.
"He is capable of playing there. He can still provide a certain threat coming off the side of a game. "But he is a natural centre-forward and has shown with his form for England that he can be a real asset to us through the middle. "That will come for him, no question." That Rooney is not certain to be fit after suffering an ankle injury at Villa does have the potential to ease Ferguson's headache slightly, as does the knowledge a Champions League tie with Galatasaray on Tuesday offers an alternative game.
That Istanbul trip is a dead rubber in terms of qualification as United's status in the knockout phase as group winners is already assured. There will be some interest though, not least as it should represent Phil Jones' first appearance of the campaign after summer knee surgery. "Phil has been training all week," said Ferguson. "I am going to take him to Turkey. He will get part of the game, which is a good start for him." Jones will not be involved tomorrow though.
And as Jonny Evans is also struggling with a groin injury, Chris Smalling will partner Rio Ferdinand in a defence that has leaked goals at a worrying level this term. United have still managed to reel off five straight Premier League wins since that home defeat by Tottenham in September. And Ferguson accepts those long unbeaten runs tend to provide the platform for which most championship challenges are based. "It is good to get momentum," he said. "If you are going to win the league, you have to have that momentum from a good run of games. "In the past we have gone 20 games without losing. That is definitely championship form. "At the moment, it is only five but this is a tough league and we are equipped to be able to cope with it all."
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