Following a straightforward victory over Sunderland on Boxing Day, Manchester United travel to St. Andrews to face Birmingham City, a side that have not beaten United in their last 23 attempts.
Though the home team remain a formidable force at St. Andrews losing only one of their last 23 Premier League home matches. But they have dropped to 17th in the standings after their Boxing Day match was called off, so Alex McLeish will be hoping his sides home form will see them through tonight.
After his brace at the weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson laid down a 25 goal target for Dimitar Berbatov, “There are certain games when we like to play one up front and three central midfield players, Dimitar understands that,” Ferguson told reporters.
“But his form has been terrific. He is on 13 goals now. If he can get us to 25, we need one more to get around that figure, then we will have a good chance [of winning the Premier League].”
With that in mind it is likely he will start against Birmingham in tandem once more with Wayne Rooney, though during the busy festive schedule both Javier Hernandez and Federico Macheda will be breathing down his neck for a starting berth.
Nani is expected to be available for selection once again after missing Sunday’s game with a hip injury and will replace Ji-Sung Park who has left to join up with South Korea in preparation for the Asian Cup.
Doubts remain over the fitness of John O’Shea and Darren Fletcher, while Paul Scholes is definitely out with a groin injury. Thus meaning Anderson and Michael Carrick will continue in the centre of midfield.
The backline should remain relatively stable with Edwin van der Sar, Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra all fit.
Having so far been undefeated in the Premier League, Sir Alex is not taking victory for granted against the Blues: “They’ll be fresh and going down there’s always a difficult place to go to. They’ve got a strong home record and they’re difficult to beat on their own ground,” he said.
“We’re well aware of that and hopefully we can get the players fresh, give them their recovery tomorrow and make maybe a couple of changes to freshen that part up and hopefully we can get the result we want.”
But his former player will be going all out to get one over his old boss, though he has a similar record to Steve Bruce in this respect; he has never triumphed over Fergie.
As Fergie suggested they will be fresh after a prolonged Christmas break and to add further glee they can welcome back Alexander Hleb who has recovered from a hamstring strain and could play a part.
Other than long-term absentee James McFadden, McLeish has no other fitness issues.
Form will have to go out the window for both sides as United have won only one of their last seven Premier League away matches, while Birmingham have managed only two wins in their last 15 league matches.
Though in the case of Wayne Rooney, he has scored four in United’s last seven games against tonight’s opposition. Lets hope he can make it five in eight.
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