Manchester United Vs Fulham, Sat 9 Apr 2011

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Live Team Sheet

Man Utd: Kuszczak, O'Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Gibson, Scholes, Anderson, Valencia, Berbatov, Nani.

Subs: Van der Sar, Brown, Owen, Park, Hernandez, Carrick, Fabio Da Silva.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido, Kakuta, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Dembele, Zamora.

Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Sidwell, Gera, Gudjohnsen, Greening, Halliche.

Sir Alex Ferguson has assured Chris Smalling he is not going to be forgotten but feels Rio Ferdinand proved on Wednesday night why he was immediately drafted back into the Manchester United starting line-up.

Ferdinand had been missing for nine weeks with a calf injury sustained in the warm-up to United's shock Premier League defeat at Wolves.

Yet Ferguson still had no hesitation in pitching the deposed England skipper straight into the white-hot atmosphere of a Champions League quarter-final.

It was harsh luck on Smalling, whose performances in Ferdinand's absence had shown a maturity that belied his 20 years.

But Ferdinand has the class and experience to make a difference.

And in silencing Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, he did exactly that.

"It was a terrible for me to explain to Chris Smalling that he wasn't playing given the way he has performed for us this season," said Ferguson.

"He understood. He is part of the squad and he won't be forgotten.

"But it's Rio's experience isn't it. He has such composure. He talks to players.

When Antonio Valencia went to full-back he was talking all the time. He was phenomenal."

Ferguson must now decide whether to give Ferdinand a second start in four days against Fulham and risk a reaction ahead of Tuesday's second leg with Carlo Ancelotti's men.


With the Manchester derby FA Cup semi-final to follow that, it is a crucial time for United, and their veteran manager realises he must get major decisions correct.

"Picking the right team is always an issue when you have a run of important games," he said.

"You are dependent on your squad, not on your team.

"Yes, there will be changes of course. We picked a team for obvious reasons on Tuesday but it could be a different team next Tuesday.

"That is the great value of having a good squad.

"But a lot of things help us (against Fulham).

"The fans were fantastic on Tuesday and they will be again. They know the importance of being united at this time.

"That will be a really good thing for us."

Fulham manager Mark Hughes does not expect Manchester United to take their eye off the ball but will be ready to exploit any opportunity if they do.

The Red Devils will be without Wayne Rooney as he serves the first of a two-game ban following Football Association sanctions after he swore into a TV camera during last week's win at West Ham.

England striker Rooney will also miss the FA Cup semi-final showdown against Manchester City at Wembley, but kept Sir Alex Ferguson's men on course for a potential treble with a crucial away goal in the midweek Champions League quarter-final first leg win at Chelsea.

With United still fighting on all three fronts, it is likely Ferguson will rotate his squad for the match against the Cottagers, who have been beaten nine times away this season.

However, Hughes believes his old club will not lose any focus as they look to extend their seven-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the table.

"Past experience suggests that won't be, but we have got to be ready if they are not on their A game. If they are not then we have a chance to win the game. We are looking to be positive," said Hughes, whose men have moved away from the relegation zone following a run of just two defeats in the last 11 Premier League games.

Hughes had two successful spells at Old Trafford as a player and believes his old club continue to show the true spirit of champions, while other sides like Arsenal and Chelsea fail to make the most of any opportunities presented.

"As the season progresses towards the business end, United are getting stronger and stronger," said the 47-year-old former Wales manager.

"They understand exactly what needs to be done and are going about their business in a fantastic manner and sweeping everyone aside."

Hughes knows better than most the aura which surrounds United when they play at Old Trafford, with visiting teams sometimes appearing beaten before they step off the coach.

However, the Fulham manager expects his squad to be fully prepared for what awaits them.

"The quality of the opposition you are against and the stage can undermine the confidence of the players going there, the history of the club and the support they have around them - come 3pm on a Saturday, sometimes that can be too much for players," he said.

"I don't anticipate for one moment it will be too much for my players because we are enjoying what we are doing at the moment, so we are very positive we can go there and get a good result."

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