United eye return to the top

With Chelsea and Arsenal, Man United can steal a march on their rivals and return to the top of the Premier League table with victory over Hull.

By (AFP)

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Published: Fri 22 Jan 2010, 9:03 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:07 AM

United’s third-round defeat by League One Leeds ensured United were able to bring forward their meeting with the Tigers, originally scheduled for the middle of next week, and they can’t afford to pass up the opportunity of three points.

Arsenal moved to the top of the table with a 4-2 win over Bolton in midweek but United could return to the summit with a win over Phil Brown’s side.

United manager Sir Ferguson surprised some with the strength of the team that he fielded in the League Cup semi-final first leg against Manchester City on Tuesday.

That match ended in a 2-1 defeat and now Ferguson must decide how many of his first-choice players he can afford to rest on Saturday ahead of the second leg against City at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Ryan Giggs is likely to sit out the Hull match and Gary Neville may feature while Dimitar Berbatov’s knee problem could mean a rare Premier League start for Michael Owen.

The game looks likely to come too soon for Rio Ferdinand, who is working his way back from several months on the sidelines with a back injury and Ferguson is still digesting the news that John O’Shea is likely to miss the rest of the season with a leg problem that he picked up in November.

Even though United were beaten at City, assistant manager Mike Phelan saw some promising signs and insists they can string some victories together if they start taking their chances.

Phelan said: “We want to keep some consistency in our game. At City there were signs that Manchester United are on the way forward.

“If we can stick the ball in the back of the net we are in business

“People keep saying the League Cup is not on anyone’s priority list but it is a cup game.

“When you get to the semi-final of a cup you want to get to the final. Both clubs are desperate for that.”

Hull boss Phil Brown is hoping that his side’s relegation battle can be boosted by the return of captain Ian Ashbee before the end of the season.

Ashbee has been out since May with a hamstring injury but has also been diagnosed with a recurrence of the degenerative bone condition that he struggled with early in his career.

Brown said: “I would never write Ian Ashbee off, never. Even if he said he wasn’t fit, I still wouldn’t write him off.

“The beauty of Ash of late is that he’s got a new focus in life, and that is that he can see light at the end of the tunnel.

“When anyone can’t see that, I can understand how they must feel and how hard it is to motivate yourself.

“But all of a sudden, I can see a realignment of his focus and I think he can see an end to all of this. We are seeing a different Ian Ashbee now, and long may that continue.”

Amr Zaki, the Egyptian striker who is joining Hull on loan, will not be considered for this weekend’s match because he is not fully match fit.

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