Birmingham Vs Manchester United: Big Match preview

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Football News

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish has warned his players to "beware of the wounded animal" when they face Manchester United in Saturday tomorrow evening's Premier League clash at St Andrew's.

McLeish knows the Red Devils will be "hurting" after suffering a shock FA Cup third round defeat against Leeds at Old Trafford last weekend.

But he is still confident his in-form players can give United - and his former Aberdeen boss Sir Alex Ferguson - the "fright of their lives."

City will go into the game defending an 11 game unbeaten league run which has catapulted them into the top half of the table and already virtually guaranteed their top flight status for another campaign.

McLeish said: "Manchester United, you can't judge them on the last couple of results, because they don't normally go a few games without winning.

"You know there will be a bit of a wounded animal this weekend and extremely dangerous - and if we were to get something off them then we would still be punching above our weight.

"But the players are relishing matches like this. Players who haven't played before in the Premier League relished coming up against Chelsea on Boxing Day, really loved it, and it will be the same against Manchester United.

"Some of them played against United this season at Old Trafford but, at St Andrews, we feel we can be a match for anybody and we will try to give Manchester United the fright of their lives."

McLeish is continually stressing the need for his players not to rest on their laurels after accumulating 32 points going into the New Year means they are only a handful away from safety.

He said: "The points we have amassed so far are way ahead of where we thought we would be and maybe we have got a few points in the bank for a rainy day.

"At some stage we will lose a game, and that's a fact, but we believe that we can continue the run but they don't come any bigger than Manchester United."

Birmingham defender Stephen Carr will return after suspension after missing the goalless draw at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup while serving a one-game ban for incurring five bookings.

McLeish will have to reorganise his bench as fringe players Lee Carsley, Stuart Parnaby and Gregory Vignal are all ruled out through injury.

But number two goalkeeper Maik Taylor has recovered from a back problem after having an injection.

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson has absolved his young players of blame for Manchester United's shock FA Cup defeat to Leeds last weekend.

The icy conditions around the north-west mean United have been forced to wait to get that dire performance out of their system.

But while Ferguson is still at a loss to explain why his team ended up getting outplayed on home soil by the League One promotion contenders, the United chief is adamant the younger men in his squad were not the ones responsible.

"You can't blame young players," he said.

"The young players were looking for a bit of help in that game and didn't get it.

"It was a bad team performance and I was shocked by it.

"I couldn't believe that after all the preparation we had done for the game and explaining to the players how difficult it was going to be, we turned in a performance like that.

"It was a bad day but I am beyond that now."

Instead, Ferguson will look for instant improvement at Birmingham.

Not that it will be easy. Ferguson himself was snowed in on Tuesday, when the heavy falls took hold of the north-west.

United's players were given two days off, then spent two days training inside, which is hardly ideal preparation, even though the Red Devils do have a significant advantage with undersoil heating on one of their outside surfaces making one decent pre-match practice possible.

Ironically, the bad weather has come at a time when Owen Hargreaves was finally starting to do some normal training with the reserve team, meaning an end to an 18-month injury nightmare is coming closer.

Rio Ferdinand is two weeks away from a return due to his long-standing back injury, which is roughly the amount of time Nemanja Vidic will be out of action after suffering a nerve problem in his leg prior to last weekend's game.

Ferguson does have Senegal-born front-man Mame Biram Diouf available for the first time after finally linking up from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's old club Molde.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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