Connect to share and comment

Football: Fergie expects big year for United treble hunters

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has told his players they are on the verge of a "big year" as they hunt down a memorable treble.

Ferguson, whose side host Norwich on Saturday, is eyeing up his second treble, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season, and has called on his players to stand up and be counted as the pressure mounts over the final weeks of the season.

The Scot has told his stars that they will have to get used to the idea that many of them will not start every game as he looks to rotate his squad to ensure they remain fresh and injury free to challenge on all three fronts.

United are in the perfect position to chop and change as they sit 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League, allowing Ferguson to rest several key players against Norwich before their decisive Champions League last 16 second leg encounter with Real Madrid on Tuesday.

"The players sense it could be a big year for them. But at this club, in this situation, anything can happen on the run-in," he said.

"Players can all of a sudden find themselves playing in a final or an important league game because that is the kind of squad I have."

Ferguson revealed he had to speak with disappointed players who did not feature in their 1-1 draw against Real at the Bernabeu.

"It is very difficult to rotate the squad at the moment," he said. "They all wanted to play against Real Madrid and there were a lot of disappointed players.

"That was fantastic. It is a measure of their own confidence in themselves.

"But we had a chat. I said 'look, don't think for a minute losing a game for Manchester United is a trivial matter'. It is a serious matter."

United striker Wayne Rooney could feature against Norwich having recovered from a sinus infection and come on as a second-half substitute in last weekend's win at QPR.

The clash with Norwich is the first of four home games in a row for United who follow it up with Madrid, before an FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea and then the visit of Reading in the league.

"We're hopeful that we can take full advantage of this spell," Ferguson added.

Norwich manager Chris Hughton is hoping his side can recreate the performance that saw them shock the Premier League leaders earlier this season at Carrow Road.

The Canaries beat United 1-0 and after last weekend's victory against Everton, Hughton revealed his side go into the clash high in confidence.

"The win over Man United was one of our best performances this season. For us to repeat that at Old Trafford would take a huge effort, but we're ready," said Hughton.

"United have only lost one game at home this season so the magnitude of the task is still there, but we are certainly better going into it for the result of last weekend."

With United well clear of second placed Manchester City in the title race, Hughton cannot see Ferguson's team throwing it away even though he would like his side dent their advantage on Saturday.

"United are clear favourites for the title this season, they've got a great lead. Do I see them losing that? No I don't," he added.

str/smg/dj

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130228/football-fergie-expects-big-year-united-treble-hunters