Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has hinted that youth could be the theme in his selection choices for Wednesday's Carling Cup quarter-final clash with Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. In United's previous Carling Cup matches at Aldershot Town and at Leeds United, Fergie combined youth with regular squad players that had needed a game at the time. It is fully anticipated that the United boss will rely on the same when he makes his selection choices. Here is what he hinted on Sunday when discussing the upcoming tie:
"There will be complete change. Just the same as we had at Leeds and Aldershot. Ravel Morrison was in the squad for Wednesday's game [against Benfica]. He's a very, very talented boy, of course, and he'll possibly be on the bench, at least, in midweek. But I've got other players needing a game like Mame Biram Diouf and Federico Macheda. All the younger players [will come in] - Zeki Fryers, the two Da Silvas [Rafael and Fabio] are possibles. Chris Smalling has come back and I may be able to play him on Wednesday. He's still young and it'll be a young squad against Palace. The only area where I've got problems is centre midfield. It's possible I could play Pogba in there but we'll wait and see. I've got enough players to choose from, that's for sure."
Fergie further mused on his enjoyment of the Carling Cup and how the competition allows him to introduce younger players into the squad:
"I think the League Cup has turned into quite a good tournament. Clubs like United are able to introduce young players and ones who have not been playing regularly in the first team and it's been good to us over the years. We've won two finals at Wembley with young players, which is good going, and I think it's become an important tournament for us in terms of getting the youngsters an introduction into winning and having an understanding of the progress they're making."
Here are further thoughts on Fergie's use of the Reserves' League and the loan system for his development of youth:
"The reserves' league is more of an extended youth league but we rectify that by putting players on loan. We've got quite a lot of players on loan this year, as we have every year, most of the 19 and 20-year-olds. The nucleus of the youth team last year have all had first-team experience this season. They've all been involved in the League Cup and travelled to European games with us. One of that youth team is out on loan in the Championship [Ryan Tunnicliffe at Peterborough] and it's valuable experience for the younger ones."
In goal, third-choice goalkeeper Ben Amos could start -- just as he did versus Aldershot and Leeds -- but backup goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is in need of a game. In defense, both Rafael and Chris Smalling have recently returned from injury and Crystal Palace could provide an ideal opportunity for both to get a start. Fabio has started in United's previous two matches but he could deputise at left-back and provide an opportunity of rest for Patrice Evra. Zeki Fryers is capable of playing at either center-back or left-back. If Jonny Evans returns to full health, he could also use Wednesday's match as an opportunity to get a game.
In central midfield, Darren Fletcher is in need of a game and he's a candidate to start. Ji-Sung Park is an option here as well. The exciting possibility is the highly rated Paul Pogba. Will the youngster earn his first start for the senior side?
Out wide, Park is a possibility and it appears that Federico Macheda and Mame Biram Diouff will get starts as well. The latter two are options up front too.
Dimitar Berbatov has started the previous two Carling Cup matches and he is a strong possibility for Crystal Palace. Another highly rated youngster, Ravel Morrison, could also earn a start and he's capable of playing in behind a lead striker. If Pogba and Morrison were both to start, Twitter would likely explode. Macheda and Diouf are other possibilities up front.
Who would you like to see feature on Wednesday?