LINDEGAARD STANDS BY FOR DEBUT
New United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard could make his eagerly-awaited first senior appearance on Saturday when the Reds visit Southampton in the FA Cup.
Edwin van der Sar will be rested from the trip, presenting a chance for either the recent signing or Tomasz Kuszczak to shine at St Mary's. It's a timely opportunity, two days after van der Sar announced his decision to retire at the end of the season.
"It's a possibility [a debut for Anders]," confirmed Sir Alex Ferguson on Friday morning. "He and Tomasz will both travel."
Van der Sar isn't the only first-choice player missing the Southampton match - full-backs Rafael (due to concussion) and Patrice Evra (family bereavement) will also be absent. Michael Carrick could be available, however, after recovering from an ankle injury.
"Hopefully Michael will be okay," said Sir Alex. "And although we picked up one or two bruises at Blackpool the other night - it was quite a physical game - we'll still take a strong squad because it won't be an easy match; cup ties away never are.
"I went to see Southampton play Oldham earlier this month and they won 6-0. They're having a good season. They play good football and I'm sure they'll have a go."
United's number one spoke exclusively to MUTV about his decision to retire. Here is a selection of the questions and his answers...
So Edwin, you've come to a decision about your future...
It's been coming for a while really. After playing for so many years in your career, you reach a certain point where you have to make a decision. At the moment it is a wise one to stop playing for United and do something else after May.
What made up your mind to retire because you're still playing as well as ever?
Thank you very much for that! There are a couple of things to consider - whether you still have an appetite for it, your family. At a certain point you have to start looking at yourself also. You have to ask if you can bring that top level of performance that you need at United. At the moment I am quite happy with my form and my achievements on the pitch. I just want to keep that on a high level.
How will you look back on your time at United?
Well, I'm not finished yet, I've still got a few months yet and I'm still aiming for something more. But it's been nice and a great experience, even at my age, to be at a club as big as United. It's been a joy.
BLOG: SIR ALEX STILL THE COMEBACK KING
MUTV's David Stowell takes his hat off to United's master of man management...
Hands up if you lumped a load of cash on the Reds to win at Blackpool when it was half-time? Well done if you did, although I admit, I couldn't see that second half coming. I was commentating on the game with Andy Ritchie and we looked at each other in despair during the interval. That was exactly when Sir Alex was getting stuck into his team in the dressing room beneath us.
He is a master tactician but management goes deeper than that. It's not all about picking a side and telling the players who to mark at corners. Sometimes you need to ditch the methodical part of the game and get into your players' minds. Whether you throw tea-cups, turn on the hairdryer or take the softly softly approach, the 15-minute half-time break is the gaffer's stage and his chance to turn minimum points into maximum points. Whatever he said, it worked a treat.
Sometimes, the dressing-room dressing downs can surprise you. Andy Cole told me recently that at Tottenham in 2001, when United were 3-0 down at the break, he and the team expected Sir Alex to come in and rip their heads off. They all sat down bracing themselves, pondering the first-half debacle and over the course of the next 14 minutes, Sir Alex said absolutely nothing. Then he brutally and concisely summed up his thoughts in 60 seconds. The Reds ended up winning 5-3. He knows how to get the best out of the players.
Of course, there have been some famous fight-backs in the FA Cup too. The 1999 run displayed United's never-say-die attitude against both Liverpool and Arsenal. This time around, Southampton will have a crack at getting ahead and staying there against the Reds. A potential banana skin, or an opportunity for the boss to shuffle the pack and rest some weary limbs? We shall see. Whatever happens at St Mary's, the home side had better make sure they keep playing right until the final whistle.