Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Final heartache for Neville

Sir Alex Ferguson faces the unenviable task of telling Manchester United club captain Gary Neville he will not need to get changed for the Champions League final against Barcelona in Rome on May 27.

The Old Trafford boss has admitted he is "dreading" trimming his squad down from 30 to 18 names and Neville, who on Saturday lifted the Premier League trophy, is expected to be a high-profile casualty when the players learn their fate.

Rafael da Silva should get the nod ahead of Neville, whose career in recent years has suffered from a catalogue of injury lay-offs, while youngsters Federico Macheda and Daniel Welbeck are certain to join their experienced team-mate in the stands at the Olympic Stadium. Owen Hargreaves, Wes Brown and Fabio da Silva will miss the final because of injury, while Darren Fletcher's red card against Arsenal in the semi-finals means he too can keep his suit on.

Park Ji-sung was left out completely in Moscow against Chelsea last year and Ferguson revealed the decision "almost broke my heart", but the South Korean is in the squad this time around and could provide the legs in the absence of the industrious Fletcher.

"There are obviously going to be several players left disappointed," said Ferguson. "Hopefully the ones who don't make it will remember we wouldn't have reached the final without their contribution and each and every one who has played in the competition should remember they are as deserving as those selected for the final. The Champions League involved six group games and a further six at the knockout phase to reach the final and we have had 20 players involved. The Champions League will not be won or lost by the players on duty on the final day."

Ferguson is expected to provide some insight into his thinking for the Rome showpiece when United travel to take on relegation-haunted Hull at the weekend and it is safe to assume those not involved at the KC Stadium can pack their boots for the final of Europe's premier club competition.

Possible team (4-3-2-1): Van der Sar; O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Giggs, Anderson; Park, Rooney; Ronaldo
Subs: Kuszczak, Evans, R da Silva, Scholes, Nani, Berbatov, Tevez
Injured: Foster, Brown, F da Silva
Suspended: Fletcher
In the stands (possible): Neville, Macheda, Welbeck, Gibson, Possebon, Eckersley, Petrucci, Amos
Not in 30-man squad: Hargreaves

Nick Walsh writes features and betting previews for Betfair.

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