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Ferguson to field youngsters against Roma

sports Updated: Dec 11, 2007 11:35 IST
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Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is set to ring the changes for Wednesday night's meaningless Champions League trip to Roma by fielding several young players.

United have already sewn up group F with five wins out of five while Roma are guaranteed to finish second and join United in the knock-out stages.

It means that both sides will probably rest several big name players, particularly with vital league matches coming up at the weekend.

United travel to Liverpool while Roma face a trip to Torino, desperate to win and hang on to Italian league leaders Inter Milan's coat-tails.

So the match is likely to feature a whole host of little-known players.

"There's no doubt we'll take some young kids," Ferguson told Manchester United Radio. "We've won the group and Roma are guaranteed second place, so there's no issue with us potentially affecting the outcome of the group.

"We wanted to give the young boys experience playing in the League Cup but they let themselves down against Coventry.

"Now there's a chance for the likes of Jonny Evans, Gerard Pique, Danny Simpson and Chris Eagles to elevate themselves. We know all about their ability but this is an opportunity for them to prove themselves.

"They won't be on their own, though. They'll have back-up from players like John O'Shea, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Louis Saha, Nani and Anderson. Cristiano Ronaldo might possibly be involved as well.

"We're not in the habit of sending teams out to lose. We'll be sending out a team that we think is good enough to win."

United's largely second-string side were humbled 2-0 by Coventry in the League Cup at Old Trafford earlier in the season but the youngsters have a mixed history in European competition.

Three years ago after having already secured qualification from the group stages, Fergie sent out a team packed with young players such as Kieran Richardson, Liam Miller, Eric Djemba-Djemba and David Bellion in Istanbul against Fenerbahce.

After a bright opening the move back-fired, they lost 3-0, finished second to Lyon in the group and were knocked out in the second round by AC Milan.

However, back in the 1994-95 season, Fergie was forced into making changes due to injuries and the foreign player limitations of the time for United's final group game against another Turkish team, Galatasaray.

The likes of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes stepped into the fold and proved their class with a stunning 4-0 triumph.

This time, though, United's opponents are also likely to be taking the game lightly, apart from club captain and talisman Francesco Totti.

He's bidding to recover his form and fitness following three-weeks on the sidelines and is expecting to play the full 90 minutes, particularly having been disappointed at being substituted in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Livorno.

"I am the first one to admit that I am not at 100 percent. That's normal after a period on the sidelines, I need to play to get back to my best," he told the Corriere dello Sport.

"The substitution was strange. I don't always agree with (Roma coach Luciano) Spalletti but it's not a problem.

"Now I think that on Wednesday I can play the 90 minutes against Manchester United. It's a match that has no bearing on the standings but we want to win, if only for a matter of pride."

United and Roma met last season in the quarter-finals with the Italians winning 2-1 in Rome before suffering a humiliating 7-1 thrashing in Manchester.

Back in October, Roma were unlucky to lose 1-0 at Old Trafford with Wayne Rooney bagging the winner 20 minutes from time.