Fergie to leave out big guns
Alex Ferguson is to ask Edwin van der Sar to captain Manchester United in his final Premier League game for the club against Blackpool tomorrow, and will make a final attempt to persuade Paul Scholes not to follow the Dutch goalkeeper into retirement.
Ferguson will hand Darren Fletcher his first senior start since March 1 in an attempt to get the Scotland midfielder fully fit for next Saturday's Champions League final against Barcelona. But he admitted he will rest several key players against Blackpool, despite the threat of Premier League sanction for fielding a weakened team in a game which carries huge significance in the relegation battle.
With Barcelona looming at Wembley in a week's time, the likes of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Javier Hernandez are all set to miss out against Ian Holloway's team.
But with Ferguson's team selection under scrutiny because Blackpool are one of five clubs threatened by relegation on the final day of the campaign, the United manager says he will name a team much stronger than the collection of reserves and youngsters which faced Hull City on the final day of the 2008-09 campaign.
And Van der Sar, who has confirmed his plans to retire, will lead the champions out against Blackpool at Old Trafford.
"He's been fantastic, absolutely sensational, with his professionalism and dedication," Ferguson said of Van der Sar.
"His training is completely different to outfield players. It involves diving about all the time, saving shots, blocks. To do that when you're more than 40 years of age -- it's hard to imagine a normal person would do that. He's special and he's got something special inside himself.
"Edwin has been a winner, all his life. He's going out at the very top."
In contrast to Van der Sar, Scholes (36) has left United guessing as to his future, but is understood to be ready to retire following the Champions League final.
Ferguson remains hopeful, however, that he can persuade the former England midfielder to stay on for one more year.
Despite the Champions League final on the horizon, Ferguson admits Blackpool's involvement in the relegation battle is an issue he cannot ignore and is confident that his eventual selection will save United from criticism.
Blackpool must better Birmingham's result at Tottenham, and hope Wigan fail to win at Stoke, to stay up.
"There are players who need a game anyway." Ferguson said. "Fletcher, Scholes, Anderson, Dimitar Berbatov, Patrice Evra and Van der Sar will all play. How we manage the rest, we will have to wait and see."
"Darren is much better, getting stronger. He's doing all his work. He is very keen to get there (Wembley) and we will give him every chance.
"He is a big-game player for us, so we are chasing him along to give him the chance of being ready for the final."
Meanwhile, David Beckham will play in Gary Neville's testimonial match against Juventus on Tuesday, eight years after he left Old Trafford for Real Madrid.
Ferguson has already guaranteed Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will be involved despite the Champions League final clash with Barcelona on May 28. (©Daily Telegraph, London)