Premier League managers always have their heart in their mouth when their players return from international duty. They are praying that none of them have picked up any injuries; this especially so at this time of the season, with just 9 games left to play. Manchester United supplies half of the England team, and all of their players are internationals. That means that there is a chance that one or more will pick up an injury.
Of course, that is why Manchester has a large squad of players to cover every position. So, with the match against Sunderland on Saturday lunchtime and their FA Cup replay against Chelsea on the following Monday, Sir Alex will be shuffling the pack. He has already stated that he now has two top players for each position and more in the reserves. With Sunderland having received two major blows this week, with their top scorer Steven Fletcher and their captain Lee Cattermole both out for the rest of the season, Sir Alex will be resting some of his top players who played internationals this week.
Here is what Sir Alex had to say at his recent press conference:-
"Freshness is the name of the game now as we come towards the end of the season and the intensity of vital games coming in quick succession," said the United manager, whose team are 15 points clear at the top of the table. "My role becomes even more important in selecting the right teams, with freshness the operative quality. It's not necessarily putting out your best team, it's picking the freshest. This will be a real problem when the players come back at the end of the international break after playing two games involving long flights, particularly with Chicharito in Mexico and Shinji Kagawa with Japan. In fact, we're making arrangements for some players to fly home by privately hired jet after their matches, to make sure they get home as quickly and smoothly as possible. Tiredness is a great leveller but we will do our utmost to make sure we field the freshest possible teams. Private planes are going to cost the club an awful lot of money, but it is something we feel we have to do. The players who have missed the international trips, like Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Nemanja Vidic, Alexander Buttner and Rafael, will be key players in the run-in. Paul Scholes is back in training and will play a part in keeping us fresh."
So here is my prediction of the likely teams for the two upcoming matches:-
The team against Sunderland:- Lindegaard; Smalling, Jones, Evans, Buttner, Anderson, Giggs, Valencia, Kagawa, Nani, Hernandez
Against Chelsea:- De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Welbeck, Rooney, Young, van Persie.
With Sir Alex you are never quite sure, but these are the most likely starter.