Relief for Ferguson after gamble paid off

Updated: 05 May 2011 10:04 IST

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he had taken a gamble after making a record number of changes for Manchester United's Champions League semi final win over Schalke 04.

Relief for Ferguson after gamble paid off

Manchester:

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he had taken a gamble after making a record number of changes for Manchester United's Champions League semi final win over Schalke 04. (Also Read: Man Utd thrash Schalke)

After winning the first leg in Germany 2-0, Ferguson made an unprecedented nine changes to his starting XI for Wednesday's return fixture at Old Trafford, which saw the English giants romp home 4-1.

Over the two legs of the tie, Ferguson used a total of 20 players, a record for a Champions League knockout match.

The decision means that several of Ferguson's first choice players, such as Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Nemanja Vidic, will be fresh for Sunday's potential Premier League title decider against Chelsea.

The United manager acknowledged however that he had taken a risk by relying on a relatively untested line-up to help secure the club's passage to the Champions League final.

"It wasn't an easy decision to make, it's one of those ones I wrestled with for a few days," Ferguson said. "It was a gamble in some ways."

Ferguson said his mind had been made up by Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Arsenal in London, where he felt his side had suffered a Euro hangover after their exertions in midweek.

"In my view there was an emotional tiredness on Sunday against Arsenal and there's no way I could have played the same team against Schalke again," he said. "The Arsenal result forced the situation.

"These European games can do that to you. If the first leg had been a tight result there was no way I could have done it. But with a 2-0 lead there was just enough leeway to do it."

Ferguson meanwhile was delighted that United should be able to draw on a full squad for the May 28 final at Wembley, injuries permitting.

In the 1999 final, United were without Roy Keane and Paul Scholes through suspension, and two years ago the combative midfielder Darren Fletcher was also suspended from the game against Barcelona.

Fletcher's absence in Rome has been cited as a key contributing factor in United's defeat in Rome, when their midfield lacked the Scot's tigerish ability to break up opposition attacks.

Fletcher missed most of March and April after suffering from a mystery virus, but returned against Schalke with a 20-minute cameo in the second half.

Ferguson later dropped a broad hint that he would look to Fletcher to stiffen United's midfield against Barcelona, provided the 27-year-old could regain match sharpness over the coming weeks.

"There are big game players, and (Darren) is a big game player," Ferguson said. "The perfect example is Mark Hughes. Mark Hughes was one of the best big game players in Manchester United's history.

"He never failed in a big game. And Darren is that kind of player. He's a big game player."

Topics : Football Jonny Evans Ryan Giggs Alex Ferguson Wayne Rooney Chelsea Arsenal FC Schalke 04 Manchester United
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