Alex Ferguson has said he will make a late decision on whether to include record signing Dimitar Berbatov in the derby match against Manchester City on Sunday.
The forward has missed Manchester United’s goalless draws at Aston Villa and Villarreal since suffering a hamstring on international duty with Bulgaria.
Berbatov was set to return to training on Thursday and United manager Ferguson was keen to monitor his progress on Friday and Saturday before deciding whether to include him at Eastlands.
Berbatov has never had hamstring problems before and his Scottish boss is wary about exacerbating the problem.
“With hamstrings you’ve got to be careful and it’s not an easy one,” Ferguson told reporters here Thursday.
“He’s never had a hamstring injury before and we have to judge whether it’s wise to use him on Sunday or put him on the bench and that depends on how he does over the next couple of days.”
Ferguson has, however, hinted that Paul Scholes could return to action next week, either in the League Cup game against Blackburn or in the Premier League match with Sunderland.
The veteran midfielder has been out of action since suffering knee ligament damage in September and had targeted the trip to Tottenham on December 13 for his return.
But Ferguson has now admitted that Scholes could be back in action against Blackburn or the Black Cats and he added: “Scholes may be involved next week sometime but definitely not this game.”
Meanwhile, Ferguson believes City must follow the model set by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich at Chelsea if they are to convert their new-found wealth into sustained success.
City, currently eight points behind third-placed United, are now one of the richest clubs in the world after they were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group at the start of September.
Their new-found spending power was evident when City manager Mark Hughes, a former United striker, who played under Ferguson, signed Brazil star Robinho for a British record 32.5 million pounds (50.1 million dollars) on the last transfer deadline day.
Sunday’s clash at Eastlands will be the first time Ferguson has come up against City since the takeover but he insisted Hughes had plenty of work to do before they can be considered genuine rivals to the Old Trafford club.
But he added English and European champions United would relish a new challenge from across town.
“At this moment in time, our threats are still Chelsea and Liverpool who are sitting above us at the moment.
“The rest is the future and that’s what Mark Hughes has got to decide how he uses his money and how he shapes his team.
“We experienced it with Chelsea when Abramovich came in and they bought all these players that summer and they won the league in the next two years.
“There was an immediate impact and of course what we had to do then was sit back and accept the challenge.
“The one thing you have to say about this club is that we can accept a challenge and do something about it. We had to do something about it or we’d have been second forever more.
“With Chelsea, it has worked and you have to say their success rate has been good,” he added.
“They’ve been at the top all the time and they’re not spending money the way they did when he (Abramovich) first came on the scene.
“They’ve built up a strong squad of players, very experienced internationals and they’ve coped with the situation quite well, bringing all the big players in together.”
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