Sir Alex Ferguson intends to ease Wes Brown back into first-team action in Manchester United's Premier League clash at Middlesbrough in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off.
With the Red Devils anxiously awaiting the results of x-rays on the rib injury Rio Ferdinand suffered at the end of Wednesday night's Champions League win over Arsenal, Ferguson is faced with being without experienced cover at centre-half. Jonny Evans is a certain replacement if, as expected, Ferdinand is ruled out.
"Wes has been training with the first team and has played two reserve games," said Ferguson. "He was with the squad today (Thursday) and there is a definite possibility he could play some part of the game on Saturday. I actually think it is important. I don't think he will start but he will play some part."
The United boss would prefer not to move John O'Shea away from the right-back station where he performed so well at Old Trafford against the Gunners.
Ferguson needs to utilise his squad on Teesside as, with the second leg at the Emirates Stadium looming on Tuesday, he cannot afford to risk all his key men again.
"I do not think it is right that we have a lunchtime kick-off at Middlesbrough," he reflected.
"Obviously I will bring some freshness into the team. The defence will be the same, apart from Rio but the midfield and forwards could change completely."
Ferguson feels the one big advantage Arsenal have is their lack of a pressing need for points at Portsmouth on Saturday, whereas his own team require victory to maintain their lead at the Premier League summit.
"They can play Pat Rice at right-back and Arsene himself at centre-forward on Saturday," said Ferguson. "We have to play a team to win the game."
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