Pompey (h): Will SAF Rotate Again?
While lazy pundits still blame Liverpool's troubles (though they seem to be easing of late) on rotation, Fergie quietly changes half of his team for every game...
After the Scholes-Hargreaves midfield did a splendid job at Fulham, Sir Alex replaced them with Carrick and Fletcher for the Champions League encounter with Lyon. Park who scored at Craven Cottage was left out of the squad against the French champions while Vidic, Rooney, Ronaldo and Anderson all returned to the starting line-up.
Tomorrow we face Portsmouth in the FA Cup quarter-final and the big question is that will Fergie rotate again? Just a few names who did not start against Lyon: Giggs, Saha, O'Shea, Scholes, Hargreaves, Park... I would not be surprised if all of them were in the starting eleven come tomorrow 12.45.
Starting Saha is necessary, we need to give him as many games as possible. He wasn't at his best against Fulham but looks more and more sharp. Park is another one who still needs games if the boss wants him to play a significant part during the run-in. No news about Gary Neville yet but sooner or later he's bound to play a game as no setbacks have been reported for a while now.
I reckon Giggs might be back into the starting eleven though it's not certain that he's shrugged off his latest injury. Scholes will definitely be back but I'd suggest to play him with Carrick alongside him as we've seen in the league game against Harry Redknapp's side.
Is this constant chopping and changing good? At some teams (like Liverpool) rotations is blamed because of the lack of quality players to cover for those rested. It's not a problem at United as Fletcher or Carrick can do the job just as well as Scholes, Anderson or Hargreaves. Up front we are short on options but that's why we should seize every opportunity to give a rest to the overworked Tevez-Rooney pair (all right, the Roonster is not someone who you would associate with tiredness, especially as he missed huge chunks of the season due to injury).
It's in the back where Fergie does not like to change and for two good reasons. First, a good defence is a settled defence which's members work in total harmony. That requires a certain amount of experience of playing together. Seeing that our defensive excellence is consistently there throughout the season there's no reason to complain.
Last season, we were outclassed in Milan and generally ran out of steam for the end of the season due to tiredness, injuries and lack of cover. Now we have embarassment of riches in the area that is most prone to suffer from fatigue: midfield. If Saha stays fit we'll have much better options up front than last season - if he doesn't, I'd still say the Rooney, Tevez pair is better than having Rooney, Smith and Solskjaer for the last part of the season (sorry Ole but at 34, after several knee operations... you are still a legend though!)
The crucial area is defence. There we do not have many options, and those we have are not encouraging... If those injury problems of last season hit that section again we'll be in trouble and could suffer at the end, especially in Europe. If Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand are fit for the run-in, we have hope.
So I'd say Fergie will rotate tomorrow and with good reason. Hopefully we'll reap the rewards of it come May.