Fergie explains midfield plan

Sir Alex Ferguson had a number of reasons to be delighted after Manchester United's 2-0 FA Cup victory over Arsenal on Saturday.

Eyebrows were raised ahead of kick-off as Ferguson named seven recognised defenders in his starting XI, with Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio lining up on the wings and John O'Shea supporting Darron Gibson in central midfield.

The manager later explained that he did not want to take a gamble on either Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes ahead of Tuesday's vital UEFA Champions League clash with Marseille.

Both veterans stepped off the substitutes' bench but United had already taken control of the quarter-final thanks to goals from Fabio and Wayne Rooney.

Ferguson said: "I couldn't risk Scholes and Giggs because of Tuesday's game.

"That is such an important game for the club and if you look at the injuries in midfield I had to come up with a plan or an idea to utilise our energy."

The introduction of Antonio Valencia at half-time also helped settle United and Ferguson was thrilled to see the Ecuadorian make his first appearance in six months following injury.

"I am very pleased with that," he said. "It was a fantastic performance.

"The boy is an absolutely brilliant player and he calmed us down in possession of the ball.

"He took the ball all the time and has got great balance, an awareness and great speed."

United did not have it all their own way against Arsenal and Ferguson paid tribute to Edwin van der Sar for a string of important saves.

"He is a fantastic goalkeeper," Ferguson said. "We just wish he was 21 rather than coming up to 41 but nature catches you eventually in life."

Source: Sky Sports
Date Published: 14 March 2011

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Im glad we got them in the semi rather then the final, the thought of them finally winning a trophy and beating us in the final would have made the run up to that that game absolutely horrible! Hopefully we'll get rid of them in the semi and then we have a great chance to go on and beat Stoke or Bolton in the final.

- Munsterman

With the midfield we started out with that was a great result and Smalling was excellent again. Great to see Valencia get 45 minutes under his belt as well. I thought Scholesy was very lucky not to get sent off at the end that was a wreckless challenge just after getting booked but it was a joy to watch some of the balls he played while he was on. Hopefully Reading can pull off the shock against City tomorrow!

- Munsterman

Always nice to get one over Arsenal. Was extremely worried before kickoff after seeing the midfield of Fabio, Rafael, O'Shea and Gibson and thought we'd lack creativity. Unsurprisingly Arsenal dominated the middle of the park and I don't really remember Gibson or O'Shea being involved all that much apart from one nice bit of skill from Gibson and him misplacing a pass but they protected the defence well when we didn't have the ball and Arsenal only really looked dangerous when they got the ball wide (particularly to Sagna). The twins did really well though and I wasn't surprised at their contribution as they're always good going forward and remember Fabio playing on the wing a lot in the reserves so it's great that we have that option but also shows how much faith Fergie has in Obertan and Bebe after their recent performances. Rooney and Hernandez looked great together up front so hopefully we'll see more of that. The defence were pretty solid though, Smalling was man of the match for me, Van der Sar was solid and Vidic was his usual self. It was also great to see Valencia back so hopefully he'll have a big part to play once he gets back up to speed. Arsenal will always have chances but they were limited to half chances and after so much has been made of our weak reserves, it was good to see us put in a decent display with a pretty much second string midfield with no Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Nani or Valencia starting. And we could have had two or three more goals if Fabio had put his early header away and Rooney and Hernandez had taken their chances so the signs going forward are encouraging again. Hopefully that'll put a dent in Arsenal's confidence but could just as well see them put a run together now that they only have the league to play for. Hopefully West Brom can add to the damage in their next game. Encouraging to see us return to winning ways after a difficult few weeks and the signs are good for the rest of the season.

- Dave