Fergie: Red Devils will play to win
Sir Alex Ferguson has urged worried North-East football fans not to fret about the Manchester United team he will send out at Hull on Sunday.
With Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland all facing the prospect of relegation from the Premier League, they are placing their faith in Ferguson's team not to roll over at the KC Stadium to effectively allow Phil Brown's side to survive.
All three clubs have distanced themselves from speculation they might be tempted to launch a legal fight against United should their team be so weak it fails to provide Hull with any kind of resistance.
However, just days before a Champions League final against Barcelona, they are acutely aware that Ferguson will rest almost all his senior players to prevent any risk of injury.
Yet a weakened team should not necessarily translate into a weak one.
Ferguson made numerous changes for the FA Cup semi-final against Everton last month and the Red Devils were still unlucky to lose out on penalties.
And he has assured Gareth Southgate, Alan Shearer and Ricky Sbragia the side he chooses will be a determined one.
"We have a league that has the best integrity in the world and we will play our part in that," he said. "No matter which team I play, it will represent Manchester United in the normal way.
"We are expected to win. We will go to win. That is the responsibility we always have."
Indeed, with Rio Ferdinand returning to training on Friday in a bid to prove his fitness after a calf problem, United could have one current England star on duty, while Wes Brown's likely comeback from a long-term foot problem may well make it two.
So concerned is Ferguson about the way his club is being portrayed, he did contemplate ringing the respective managers to offer his reassurance, only to decide it probably was not worth it.
"No-one should be unduly worried about our intentions," he said. "I was going to ring them, although eventually I dismissed that idea because they must know we will be doing our best.
"Ricky Sbragia worked here. He knows this club. He knows exactly what we will do. Gareth Southgate and Alan Shearer played against us many times. They know exactly what it is like against Manchester United."
It could also be argued having the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in his team on Sunday might actually benefit Hull, given no-one would want to put their fitness at risk so close to one of the biggest games of their careers.
Instead, Federico Macheda, who could get a title medal given his match-winning contributions against Aston Villa and Sunderland, and Daniel Welbeck are set to lead the United attack, with Darron Gibson in midfield, just as he was against the Toffeemen at Wembley.
"If I can trust them in a semi-final, why can't I trust them in the last game of the season when we have already won the league?" questioned Ferguson.
"To play players who have represented us in other big games is just a natural thing for us."
Really, the desire of any side managed by Ferguson should never be questioned.
With 32 major honours to his name, the Scot has now surpassed the British record of legendary Rangers boss Bill Struth, whose longevity was on a par with Ferguson's 23-year stint at Old Trafford.
Yet for all his success, Ferguson is acutely aware of the criticism that will come his way should Hull save themselves at United's expense.
"If we don't win on Sunday I will be slaughtered on Monday," he said. "It will be the worst thing that has ever happened to the British game.
"People will be complaining about me damaging the integrity of our league.
"That's the thing about success and praise; you have to treat it for what it is."
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