United v Bayern - Last Chance Saloon, With Rooney
After our title challenge ended on Saturday, thoughts turned towards the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Bayern Munich which will determine whether we'll have anything significant to play for during the remaining one and a half months of the season.
After the sale of Ronaldo and the incredibly injury problems we had in defence as well as the off-field distractions, I would deem it a successful season even if it ended right here although it is of course well below the standard that has been set in recent years.
However, a third consecutive Champions League final is within reach - we only have to beat Bayern Munich 1-0 or by two clear goals at Old Trafford to set up a semi-final meeting with Bordeaux or Lyon, probably the latter.
Fergie has to be very, very clever with his selection because we have nothing else to play for but the Champions League. He cannot have one eye on the league clash against Blackburn, he must not juggle with the squad - he must put out the strongest available line-up. Which would mean putting Giggs, Scholes and Neville on the bench as on current form and fitness they are not part of the best XI. We simply cannot risk being overrun again, as we were by Chelsea on the Saturday.
The Rooney dilemma is not really a dilemma. If there is a risk of a long-term injury then he should not play even though reports suggest he came through a full training session and a practice match, too. However, if the only risk if that he might miss the game against Rovers - then so be it, put him at least on the bench, the league is over anyway. I don't expect him to feature though and I'm certain he won't start, whatever the papers and bookies might suggest.
I hope that Fergie drummed into Berbatov that he should play as a centre-forward. That is to say, he should link up the play, disrupt the defensive line, attempt to run behind them, to look for through balls and crosses coming in his way. Too often he plays like a bleedin' attacking midfielder or a 'false number nine' which is a very flashy thing right now but we do not have the wide forwards to exploit such a player. He has to play as a proper number nine, as Rooney does.
I would not risk starting with Macheda - he is still very raw and we could lose shape and direction because of his insufficient experience. He is a good option from the bench, his style is very unpleasant for tiring defenders. Nani and Valencia should start on the flanks because it is very important to have real pace in attack in the absence of Rooney.
But the most important thing is that everyone understands there is no second chance. This game will determine if we have anything to play for so everyone has to give 150% and not to worry about what happens in the next game. The next game does not exist for us, only this one. Bayern have a cup final and a probable league title to look forward to so they have less to lose. This means more pressure but we should thrive under that. We really should.