herald

Friday 18 April 2014

Rio's ready to crack Cup

RIO FERDINAND returns to his old Upton Park stamping ground tomorrow insisting Manchester United are as keen to win the FA Cup as they are any other competition.

United recorded the last of their record 10 triumphs in the competition nine years ago, when they beat Millwall at the Millennium Stadium.

Since then they have competed in three Champions League finals and one semi, in addition to winning the Premier League on four occasions, and with Alex Ferguson set to make big changes for the third round tie against West Ham, it seems the tournament has tumbled down the list of priorities.

Yet Ferdinand -- who missed that 2004 game as he was serving his suspension for missing a drugs test --insists such an assessment is false.

"We never go into a tournament thinking we don't mind leaving it and are happy to go out," he said.

"This is no different to any competition. We want to win it. West Ham at Upton Park is always a hard game. We know what we are in for.

"It will be tough but it is a match we are more than capable of winning."

However, it is quite conceivable Ferguson could select a completely different starting line-up to the one he picked at Wigan on New Year's Day.

Darren Fletcher, for instance, has not started a game since December 1 after being involved in three of the previous four.

Shinji Kagawa needs additional match practice after his knee injury, whilst Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are also searching for full fitness after their early-season absences.

With Anders Lindegaard and Alex Buttner also due a game, Ferguson could switch half his team without even thinking whether Wayne Rooney is ready to return following the knee injury he sustained at Swansea on December 22.

Not that the United boss can afford to take it easy.

West Ham are likely to include Ferdinand's former team-mate Joe Cole and boast an impressive record of three wins from their past six encounters with United on home soil.

Meanwhile, Ryan Giggs has admitted preparing for matches as a fringe member of United's squad has its own problems.

Gone are the days when Giggs was an automatic presence in Ferguson's starting line-up.

Indeed, so infrequently was the 39-year-old selected at the start of the season, there were claims he might call time on his stellar career this summer.

Ferguson met such observations with a typically withering response.

Indeed, over Christmas, Giggs has been a key man for United, impressing in his substitute role at Swansea, then against Newcastle and Wigan as the Red Devils maintained their seven-point advantage in the Premier League title race.



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Yet the mere fact Giggs completed the full 90 minutes at the DW Stadium on New Year's Day almost certainly means he will not be involved in tomorrow evening's tie.

And then United only have two games in a fortnight, meaning Giggs' appearances may be restricted once more.

"It can be difficult," Giggs said.

"It's just a case of looking after your fitness and making sure you're sharp and not peaking in the middle of the week when you need to be ready for a Saturday game.

"It is tough when you get yourself ready for a Wednesday game, don't play and then you have to get yourself ready for a Saturday game.

"But a lot of players are in that position.

"We have a big squad and you're not going to play every game.

"Together with Paul Scholes, I probably play fewer matches than a lot of the players but we know we have to be ready when we're called upon."

Giggs offers far more than just his playing ability though.

As United try to secure a record 20th league title, while at the same time balancing the competing interests of the FA Cup and the Champions League, the veteran Welshman's experience in the dressing room is invaluable.

"My role has changed over the last five or six years," Giggs said.

"I'm an experienced player and an elder statesman. It's a position I'm quite comfortable with. I am helping the young players and, while I am not starting as many games, it's about being ready when I do."

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