Birmingham Vs Manchester United, Tue 28 Dec 2010

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Birmingham manager Alex McLeish insists his team will be raring to go against Manchester United following their unexpected "mid-winter break".

McLeish's team have seen their last two games called off due to adverse weather conditions, meaning they have not played since being beaten by Wolves on December 12.

But the former Scotland boss reports his team's training schedule has returned to normal, having been affected by the sheer weight of snowfall in the midlands earlier in the month.

"There's that mid-winter break we've all been asking for," McLeish joked. "I don't think the players have lost any sharpness because we've had a really good week in training.

"They were like kids with toys, getting out on the grass, because we did have some problems clearing the snow from the grass in the previous week, so training was interrupted."

The postponements may have eased Birmingham's busy fixture schedule but McLeish's men face an intensive start to 2011, due to rearranged matches and the two legs of the Carling Cup semi-final against West Ham.

They are also due to visit Blackpool on January 4, a match which may also be threatened if the cold snap persists, due to the lack of undersoil heating at Bloomfield Road.

Despite such concerns, McLeish is not troubled by the winter schedule.

"I don't know what good it does to worry about something like that," he said. "You've just got to handle it, it's the challenge that we face.

"If any group of players can overcome that, it's this bunch. You've got to keep the focus for the next game, and the next game's against Manchester United."

McLeish was at Old Trafford on Boxing Day to watch Sir Alex Ferguson's side maintain their unbeaten Premier League record this season with a win over Sunderland.

McLeish hopes his team's performances at home against the Premier League's top sides this season will allow them to believe they can end United's run.

"They were pretty impressive," he said. "Someday, Man United will lose a game and I'm hoping and believing it's us that can do that.

"We're at St Andrew's and I think we have to believe. We've upset the big teams before, and it would be nice if we can do that again.

"We've heard opposition managers of those teams say it's a difficult place to come to and we want United to be saying that after the game."

On-loan midfielder Alexander Hleb could feature on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Ryan Giggs is taking nothing for granted even though Manchester United's grip on the Premier League is beginning to strengthen.

United head to Birmingham still unbeaten following their win over Sunderland and with daylight starting to appear between them and their nearest challengers.

However, Giggs is not getting carried away.

The veteran Welshman is acutely aware United have had two away games - at Blackpool and Chelsea - postponed and that, in this of all seasons, shock results can crop up at any time.

"You are obviously wary because of the way the league has been this year," said Giggs. "Anyone can beat anyone. We are thankful we remain unbeaten and confidence is high. But we realise that nothing can be taken for granted.

"It is a tough league and we need to be at our best in every game."

Yet the self-belief at Old Trafford must be fuelled by the knowledge United traditionally improve at this time of year.

It is rare for United not to kick on during January and there is a possibility that by the time they encounter Chelsea for the first time in March, they could be too far in front for Carlo Ancelotti's men to do anything about it.

"We hope to get better in the second half of the season," said Giggs.

"Our form over the last few weeks has been really good. We looked sharp against Arsenal and Blackburn, and it was the same against Sunderland.

"Some of the play we produced, the one-touch passing and the movement, was great to be involved in."

If there are negatives they come through the continued absence of Paul Scholes with a groin injury and the loss of Park Ji-sung to an Asian Cup campaign with South Korea, which is likely to mean his absence until February.

"We are disappointed Ji is going away at this time because he has been playing so well," said Giggs.

"Any of the lads would have Ji in the team every time because of his work rate and what he puts into the game.

"But this is what the squad is for. We have players who aren't getting games but will be ready to come in and do a job."

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

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