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English Premiership

Big boys return

LONDON, December 4- Sir Alex Ferguson is poised to recall his big guns when Manchester United travel to Upton Park on a mission to keep in touch with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table.
WAYNE_ROONEY_FINGERS_Ferguson fielded a youthful side in the midweek League Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford and was rewarded as the likes of Danny Welbeck, Darron Gibson, Federico Macheda, Gabriel Obertan and Ritchie de Laet impressed in United’s comfortable passage to the semi-finals.

The Scot has been full of praise for those who have stepped up to the plate, and critical of those who who have dared to suggest the players in question might not meet the high standards required at Old Trafford.

Yet it is doubtful Ferguson will trust any of them enough to hand them regular exposure to the tough demands of the Premier League, mainly because United’s margin for error in the title race is minimal given the five-point advantage Chelsea currently hold at the top of the table.

The exception could be Gibson, whose two goals in midweek have presented Ferguson with a selection dilemma.

The Ireland midfielder has shown he is ready for a continued run in the team but the problem Ferguson faces is accommodating him in an area of the side where he is spoilt for choice.

The recent form of Anderson and Michael Carrick has dipped and these two could be the most vulnerable should Ferguson decide to hand Gibson another chance to impress in a line-up that will see Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and possibly Paul Scholes return.

Veteran defender Gary Neville believes the midweek display against Spurs was proof that United have another golden generation of young stars on their books and he argued that those on the fringes should now be considered an integral part of United’s first team squad.

"I don’t think they’re younger players," Neville said. "They’re playing for their countries and they deserve to be there by right.

"They’re Premier League players of that quality, although they’re obviously developing.

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"It’s going to be difficult to go all the way in the League Cup, but we’re in the semi-finals again and we want to continue to do well this year."

Having struggled badly earlier in the season, West Ham have moved out of the relegation zone by winning two of their last four matches and, like Ferguson, manager Gianfranco Zola is reaping the benefit of giving homegrown young players their chance.

Few of the Hammers proteges have impressed more than winger Zavon Hines, who is relishing the chance to test himself against the champions.

The Jamaican-born forward is not lacking in confidence and insists he will not be overawed by the reputations of the players he will come up against on Saturday.

"I am looking forward to the game and it doesn’t matter who you play. When Arsenal came here we were really up for it and came back from 2-0 down so I’m happy to take on anyone.

"Every time I come on I feel happy because not a lot of people get into my position. Playing for West Ham is a big thing for me and every time I play I get more confidence."

Hines is set to start on Saturday with West Ham’s England striker Carlton Cole sidelined by a knee ligament injury. Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami is also out and Zola is sweating on the availability of Matthew Upson, who is struggling with a hamstring problem.

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