Ferguson considers formation change
Sir Alex Ferguson is preparing to launch a personal revolution by switching to a diamond formation.
Throughout his near 40-year time in management, the Manchester United boss has remained wedded to his ideal of playing with wide men.
As it is part of United's tradition as well, the pair appeared to be growing old together.
However, at the age of 70, Ferguson has had a radical rethink.
The summer arrival of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, plus Tom Cleverley's emergence as a player of international calibre triggered Ferguson into an experiment.
From the Capital One Cup, through the Champions League and into domestic league action, the diamond has sparkled and brought success.
With Kagawa and Cleverley both set to face Braga tonight, the diamond could be twinkling again at Old Trafford.
And Ferguson is considering changing the habit of a lifetime by making it permanent.
"If it turns out we play the diamond consistently it would be revolutionary because it is going against our history,'' said Ferguson.
"But the level of the game in England and Europe now is so high that making yourself unpredictable is going to be a strength.
"Teams will have to think if we are going to use two out wide or the diamond because we have players capable of doing both things.
"Kagawa and Cleverley can play really well in the type of game that a diamond offers, whilst in Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia we have very good wide players.''
After a draining return to the Far East during the international break, Kagawa, like Cleverley, was excused Saturday's win over Stoke so he would be fully refreshed as United look to extend this season's 100% record in the Champions League.
The Japan international is still getting used to life in England, and Ferguson presumably felt a confrontation with Tony Pulis' 'jolly green giants' would not do much for his development.
"I don't believe I have cemented my place yet," Kagawa told Japanese news agency Kyodo.
"There is not one game that I can be satisfied with the way I played over the 90 minutes.
"I need to communicate better so I can get my timing right when asking for the ball and things like that.
"It is really tough but it was the same at Dortmund and once I get through it I think I can improve. You either lose your way or you break through the hardships and play well."
Ferguson has no doubts, but with the partnership between Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney showing encouraging signs, Kagawa may have to accept a slightly different role than the one he anticipated.
"The initial reason for taking him was his ability to play behind the strikers,'' said Ferguson.
"In the last couple of games he has played middle to right.
"It is not a problem for him because he is still in a forward position and still has the ability to create as he does from the central part."
With Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra rested, Ferguson needs to make changes in defence.
Alex Buttner is certain to fill the left-back slot to make his Champions League debut, whilst Ferguson is giving serious consideration to selecting rookie Scott Wootton at centre-half alongside Jonny Evans.
Wootton has impressed in the limited chances he has had so far.
However, life for Ferguson will become much less complicated when Chris Smalling and Phil Jones return from foot and knee injuries in the next couple of weeks.
"Chris has trained with (reserve coach) Warren Joyce for a couple of days now but it is non contact at the moment,'' said Ferguson.
"He is being the free player in training sessions.
"But the encouraging thing is he is definitely on the way back.
"I also expect Phil Jones to start on the football side next Monday and the two of them are both only two or three weeks away."
Braga coach Jose Peseiro was among the guests at Manchester United's post-game Champions League winners' party in Moscow four years ago - but he wants to be celebrating alone at Old Trafford tonight.
Peseiro, a former assistant to ex-United coach Carlos Quieroz, revealed he had helped United scout Nani before the Portugal midfielder moved to Old Trafford in 2007, and he joined United in toasting the success Nani helped earn by scoring one of the penalties in United's dramatic shoot-out victory over Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium the following spring.
It as an evening Peseiro has naturally never forgotten.
"I first came to Manchester with Carlos and spoke with Sir Alex about Nani," he said.
"We probably talked about three or four times before he eventually decided to sign him over (Yuri) Zhirkov.
"When United got to the Champions League final, they invited me to the game.
"I stayed in one of the hotels the club used for the match and was there for the party afterwards.
"I was there for four or five days overall, together with my wife.
"It was a fantastic experience. But tonight I hope to be having a party at Sir Alex's expense."