MANCHESTER, May 19 – Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to risk the wrath of Newcastle United and Middlesbrough fans by fielding a rookie XI against Hull City this Sunday.The Daily Mail says Gary Neville, Nani and Darren Fletcher will all start, but the rest of the XI will be relative rookies as Ferguson keeps his stars in cotton wool for their Champions League final against Barcelona.
Ferguson is aware of the criticism he will receive if he fields a team of youngsters against Hull because Newcastle – who are at Aston Villa on the same day – will definitely be relegated if United lose.
United will leave the KC Stadium on Sunday just 72 hours before their date with Barcelona and on Monday Ferguson seemed to confirm he would make wholesale changes in an attempt to ensure that his star players are fresh for Rome.
The United manager also said Park Ji-Sung would play in the Italian capital and that Rio Ferdinand was expected to be fit for the match.
Should Hull avoid defeat, Middlesbrough will be relegated, while a victory for Phil Brown’s team would take them out of Newcastle’s reach.
While no United second string could be called weak, the absence of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney would come as a major boost to Brown, but is likely to be met by the accusation that United have called into question the integrity of the League by Alan Shearer and Gareth Southgate, the Newcastle and Middlesbrough managers.
Ferguson said: "This is the best squad I’ve ever had. I could have picked two teams and I will be picking a team next Sunday which will reflect that.
"I have a fantastic squad of about 28 or 29 players to choose from with the introduction of [Federico] Macheda, [Danny] Welbeck, [Rodrigo] Possebon and the Da Silva twins.
"I know they’re young but they’re very good players, good characters, and they give us a back-up we’ve never had before. I’m as confident for the final as I possibly can be, because we’ve won the league so we’ll be going to Rome with a fresh team."
Should Ferguson stick to his promise, it would not be the first time a top side have been criticised for failing to provide one relegation-threatened opponent with the same calibre of line-up they offered others.
A likely United XI:
(4-4-2): Ben Amos; Gary Neville, James Chester, Craig Cathcart, Richard Eckersley; Nani, Darron Gibson, Darren Fletcher, Zoran Tosic; Kiko Macheda, Danny Welbeck.