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United seek right balance

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson faces a delicate balancing act of picking a strong enough side to reach the Champions League final while resting the players he needs for this week's domestic showdown. Matchbox

sports Updated: May 04, 2011 01:41 IST

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson faces a delicate balancing act of picking a strong enough side to reach the Champions League final while resting the players he needs for this week's domestic showdown.

After securing a comfortable 2-0 at Schalke 04 in their semi-final first leg last week, Ferguson was already talking about making changes for Wednesday's return leg at Old Trafford and the need has since become even greater.

United's lead at the top of the Premier League was trimmed to three points this weekend to set up Sunday's match against Chelsea as a potential title decider. The London side would go ahead on goal difference with victory.

That would point to captain Nemanja Vidic keeping up his commanding central defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand and if Schalke are anywhere near as toothless as last week, the duo would not expend too much energy.

It will hardly be a second-string side if it features the EPL' s top scorer Dimitar Berbatov and evergreen midfielder Scholes, but it will be weaker.

Midfielder Ryan Giggs, who became the oldest scorer in the Champions League at 37 years and 148 days, is unlikely to be rushed back after missing the Arsenal game through illness.

The first leg's other scorer Wayne Rooney is also a prime candidate to be rested as the striker has been excelling in a new deeper-lying role behind Javier Hernandez that is as energy-sapping as it is devastating to defences.

Rooney missed training on Tuesday but should be fit for the clash.

"He didn't train this morning, he has a tight hamstring. He'll be alright tomorrow," Ferguson said.

Schalke travel to Manchester needing goals but know United have conceded only three times in 11 matches in the competition this season, clearly suggesting that the English side is set to reach their third Champions League final in four years.