Neville v Bale - A Match-Up Made In Hell
United host Spurs in a game which might be crucial to the visitors' hopes of snatching the fourth Champions League spot. United should also win, to keep the very, very faint title hopes alive but Fergie looks certain to make winning very difficult for the team.
Apparently, Rafael da Silva's exile is set to continue even though I do not really understand why an extremely harsh sending off after a brilliant display should warrant such punishment. He hasn't played at all since the debacle at Bayern Munich yet there's no news of injury.
John O'Shea and Wes Brown are far from match fitness so in all probability we'll see Gary Neville up against one of the Premiership's in-form players, Gareth Bale. The last time he was pitted against a wide player on top of his game the result was embarassing: Florent Malouda tormented him mercilessly and Gary was reduced to chasing shadows all afternoon.
Malouda is more experienced and powerful than Bale but the Welshman has an even more explosive pace which make him extremely likely to tear Neville a new one and I'm shaking with fear at the thought of their duel. Bale scored against both Arsenal and Chelsea and he's certainly the most improved Premiership player this season.
I still think that despite Rafael's sometimes rash decision-making, he's our best bet against Bale, simply because he can keep up with the Welshman as he's got similar searing pace. The kind of slow, 'control' football that we played for the best part of the game at Eastlands is unlikely to cause much trouble to Spurs who will relish the opportunities to hit us on the break while Citeh could never really decide whether to have a real go at us or to sit back and try to play on the counter. Spurs will not that indecisive and they will utilise the pace of Bale to full effect.
Fielding Neville against such a team is a disaster waiting to happen, especially if Giggs and Scholes both start, too: we'll be overrun by their fitter, more athletic players and they will have the numerical advantage all over the field, just like Chelsea had when Scholes, Neville and Giggs all started against them. I hope Fergie learned from that lesson but naming all three in the starting line-up against City suggests the opposite and the victory, especially as it was a deserved one, might have only reinforced his beliefs that he's doing the right thing by always going for experience... That despite its tragic conclusion the Bayern game actually brought our best performance of recent weeks seems to have escaped his attention.