Sir Alex Ferguson is looking likely to field two entirely different teams in the space of 48 hours in a bid to keep his side on course for a Premier League and F.A Cup double.
Manchester United face Sunderland away on Saturday before travelling to Stamford Bridge for a tough F.A Cup quarter-final replay against Chelsea on Monday.
Michael Carrick, Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic are all likely to be rested for Saturday’s Premier League fixture at the Stadium of Light due to the huge 15 point lead United have opened up over Manchester City.
Ferguson is aware of the desire within the squad to lift the coveted F.A Cup with a number of United’s senior players including Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra yet to lift the trophy due to United not winning the trophy since 2004.
“Freshness is the name of the game now as we come towards the end of the season and the intensity of vital games coming in quick succession,” said the 70-year-old Scot.
“My role becomes even more important in selecting the right teams, with freshness the operative quality. It’s not necessarily putting out your best team, it’s picking the freshest.
“This will be a real problem when the players come back at the end of the international break after playing two games involving long flights, particularly with Chicharito in Mexico [to play USA] and Shinji Kagawa with Japan [ who have a World Cup qualifier in Jordan on Tuesday].
“In fact, we’re making arrangements for some players to fly home by privately hired jet after their matches, to make sure they get home as quickly and smoothly as possible.
“Tiredness is a great leveller but we will do our utmost to make sure we field the freshest possible teams. Private planes are going to cost the club an awful lot of money, but it is something we feel we have to do.
“The players who have missed the international trips, like Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Nemanja Vidic, Alexander Buttner and Rafael, will be key players in the run-in. Paul Scholes is back in training and will play a part in keeping us fresh.”
Asking his players to perform twice in 48 hours is perhaps a little beyond the realms of reality, particularly after fatigue played such a huge part in the second half collapse last time the two sides met with only a fine David De Gea save preventing Juan Mata from winning the game at the death.
Hence, Sir Alex is considering fielding two completely different teams for two games with the latter likely to shape the final stages of the season and hopefully set up a mouth-watering Wembley show-piece with Manchester City.
Sir Alex Ferguson also spoke about the first F.A Cup tie which saw him resume his rivalry with old adversary Rafael Benitez.
“You could see the signs of mental fatigue in the first-half against Chelsea with the way we were giving the ball away in situations when we were not under particular pressure,” he continued.
“In the second-half, some of our players were just plain knackered and, against a good team like Chelsea, you get punished for carelessness.
“We got out of jail and now we have a second chance, for which we will hopefully be in a better state.”