United ready to impose their own blockade

MANCHESTER UNITED aim to avoid getting caught up by a general strike in Spain today – and set up their own blockade against Valencia instead.

The country is set to come to a standstill in protest at savage cuts being imposed by the government to try and balance the books in one of Europe’s most debt-ridden economies.

As a former trade unionist in the Glasgow shipyards, Ferguson is well versed in politics and reacted jovially when asked whether he was concerned about getting caught up in the action today.

Of far more concern to the Scot, is shoring up a defence that has leaked nine goals in its five Premier League games, which means the return of Rio Ferdinand has not come a moment too soon.

“Rio is much fitter now,” said Ferguson.

“He has had plenty of training, a couple of reserve games and matches against Rangers and Scunthorpe.

“He was out for five months so he still probably needs another game or so.”

Ferguson claimed to still be undecided about whether to select Ferdinand or Jonny Evans to feature alongside skipper Nemanja Vidic at the Mestalla.

Merely by missing that Scunthorpe encounter to watch Valencia in action personally against Atletico Madrid last Wednesday, Ferguson was underlining the importance of what will be United’s 19th away game against Spanish opposition, from which they have emerged victorious on just one occasion, against Deportivo La Coruna in 2002.

With Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs all ruled out, Ferguson has some tricky selection posers to solve.

Darron Gibson has tended to be used in Europe recently, so he is in contention for a midfield spot, possibly ahead of Michael Carrick, who has only just returned after an Achilles complaint and is badly lacking match practice.

The whole shape of the team will be determined by whether Dimitar Berbatov is selected as a lone striker, something he did well at Bolton last season but was subsequently woeful at Blackburn a few weeks later, or partner him with Michael Owen.

Sparingly used this season, to the extent there have been suggestions of a January move away from Old Trafford, Owen has scored three times in a week to emphasise his well being and draw warm praise from his manager.

“Michael’s performances in training have been terrific,” said Ferguson. “I have said that since he joined us.

The Spanish side go into the game sitting top of the Primera Division table, ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid and defying the critics who predicted they would struggle to compete following the loss of David Villa and David Silva in the summer.

Probable Valencia team: Sanchez; Miguel, Navarro, Ricardo Costa, Mathieu; Joaquin, Albeda, Banega; Mata, Soldado, Aduriz.

Probable Man United team: Van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Gibson, Fletcher, Carrick Nani, Park, Berbatov.

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