Dimitar Berbatov will miss Manchester United's Club World Cup semi-final against Gamba Osaka but there will be plenty of old hands on display.
United go for experience with Berbatov out
YOKOHAMA // Dimitar Berbatov will miss Manchester United's Fifa Club World Cup semi-final against Gamba Osaka tonight. The Bulgarian striker, a £30.75million (Dh176m) summer signing from Tottenham, has picked up a virus and has been confined to his bed since United arrived on Monday.
The United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed that he will pick an experienced side including Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who will start for the first time since suffering a knee injury against Aalborg in September. Cristiano Ronaldo will also play against the Asian champions. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney are likely to start up front as United attempt to become the first English club to win the competition in its new format.
"It's a great opportunity for us to become the first Premier League club to win this competition and etch our name in history," said the midfielder Michael Carrick. "We're desperate to win this tournament. We watched a video of Gamba Osaka this morning and they play some very good football. There was a lot of short passing and they were very well organised. Endo stood out. He drifted out to the left and scored a good goal. The Brazilian striker Lucas had very good technique and skills, but there will be more threats than just those two players and we have to be aware of that."
Ferguson described his difficulty in selecting a team from a 23-man squad, which he think is his best in his 22 years at Old Trafford. "All my players here are internationals except Rafa [Da Silva]," said Ferguson. "That brings problems as you cannot leave international players on the bench. To put an international in the stand is almost an insult. They expect to play and want to play." The United manager singled out Paul Scholes for praise, saying: "Paul brings an order to our game. He has been a fantastic player for us. When he was younger he used to get me 12 goals a season. He can't do that now. We don't ask him to. He brings other things. His experience and his ability to control a match is a fundamental part of our game. His intelligence on a football field is terrific."
Scholes is now 34 and Ferguson hopes that he can avoid injuries and play for another two years. "It is always difficult when players get injuries in their 30s in terms of how they come back," said the United manager. Carrick also offered his appreciation of fellow midfielder Scholes. "You cannot help but learn a lot off Scholesy," he said. "The way he can control a game and play at his own pace is something hard to put your finger on. It is hard to do. He has just got that. He is intelligent. His football brain is so fast."
Around 20,000 Osaka fans are expected to make the three-hour journey to Yokohama, with 1,000 United fans flying from Manchester to boost what is expected to be a capacity 66,000 crowd. "It's incredible that so many have made the sacrifice so close to Christmas in these difficult economic times," acknowledged Ferguson. email@example.com