Monday 11 December 2017

Rio urges United to maintain momentum for Barca clash

Rio Ferdinand. Photo: Getty Images
Rio Ferdinand. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Ogden

Rio Ferdinand believes Manchester United should field their strongest side in Sunday's Premier League finale against Blackpool, after claiming the decision to rest key players before the 2009 Champions League final backfired.

With a 19th league title confirmed following the 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers last Saturday, Alex Ferguson has admitted he has a "real opportunity to look at how we can rest players" on Sunday in preparation for the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley on May 28.

Prior to the 2009 final defeat against Barcelona in Rome, Ferguson gave his first-team players an 11-day break by fielding a virtual reserve team in the final game of the season at Hull, three days before the clash with the Spanish champions.

If Ferguson repeats that move against a Blackpool side battling to avoid relegation, senior players such as Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic could have a 14-day gap between their outing at Ewood Park and the Champions League final.

However, Ferdinand says the mood among United players is to play as often as possible before taking on Barcelona in the final.

"We had two weeks to prepare for the final against Barcelona in Rome two years ago and we kind of rested beforehand,'' he said.

"But sometimes, if you rest up too much, you can become a little bit lackadaisical.

"When you are used to playing week in, week out and then find yourself doing nothing, your body doesn't react as well as it would if you go into a game straight on the back of another one."

United are set to face a full-strength Barcelona side at Wembley following Uefa's decision not to suspend midfielder Sergio Busquets in the wake of allegations of racist abuse towards Real Madrid's Marcelo during the semi-final against their fierce rivals.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has claimed United are "exceptionally strong" and "very similar to Real Madrid", but the Spanish club go into the game as favourites.

Despite Barca's form and the presence of linchpin Lionel Messi, Ferdinand insists United can win a fourth European Cup at Wembley.

"I played against Messi in the last Champions League final and in the semi-finals when we beat Barcelona in 2008," Ferdinand said. "He plays all over the place and can come at you from anywhere, so we have to be on our guard. It's like any cup final; every player has to play at eight or nine out of 10 if you are to win it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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