Sir Alex Ferguson wants his Manchester United side to concentrate solely on their Champions League semi-final against Schalke.United hold a 2-0 aggregate lead over the German side heading into the second leg of their semi final on Wednesday, and will no doubt have their crucial Premier League clash against Chelsea in the back of their minds.
And despite calling for focus on their next game, Ferguson recognised how big the next week will prove to be in United’s season with their game against Chelsea following just four days after Wednesday’s match.
“If you look at the experience of last year when we lost in the league it came after a Wednesday game against Bayern,” Ferguson said.
“The team were very tired against Chelsea in that next game. That has to have a bearing on my team selection. Two massive games both as important as the other.”
One concern for Ferguson is the fitness of striker Wayne Rooney, who failed to train on Wednesday.
Rooney is in doubt for Wednesday’s match, but midfielder Darren Fletcher will be available.
“(Rooney) didn’t train this (Tuesday) morning, he’s got a tight hamstring so we’ll see what he’s like (on Wednesday),” Ferguson said.
“Darren will play part in the game – he is involved. He has shown great improvement from his reserve game last week. He has done a lot of good work.”
United are coming off the back of a defeat away to Arsenal that has blown the Premier League title race wide open, and Ferguson recognises the need to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible.
“That’s the great beauty of football; at least you always have the next game to do something, and we’ve only had to wait three days really,” he said.
He also backed his players to respond against the Germans and added: “I think they’ve been through many tests like this and (the one they will face on) Sunday. So I trust that.”
Ferguson also firmly rejected the idea that the tie against Schalke is already settled given their healthy lead.
“I hope Manchester United don’t regard it as a formality, I certainly will not be,” he said. “I think you’ll find they will have a real go.”
Ferguson also used his pre-match press conference to back goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar’s decision to retire at the end of the season, stating the Dutch goalkeeper’s career had reached its ‘absolute pinnacle’.
He said: “All of a sudden age comes on you very suddenly, and I wouldn’t want to see Edwin van der Sar in that situation. He deserves to go out at the very, very top.”