Updated: Monday, 24th September 2018 @ 5:48am

Ex-Red Mickey Thomas expects Manchester United to go full throttle in league and FA Cup double pursuit

Ex-Red Mickey Thomas expects Manchester United to go full throttle in league and FA Cup double pursuit

Exclusive by Ross McLean

Red Devils legend Mickey Thomas expects a no-holds-barred approach from Sir Alex Ferguson this weekend as Manchester United target a fourth league and FA Cup double.

United face Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday before travelling to Stamford Bridge on Easter Monday for an FA Cup quarter-final replay.

And Thomas – who made 110 United appearances between 1978 and 1981 – thinks Sir Alex will take no chances with team selection as the season approaches ‘squeaky bum time’.

“I think the manager’s priority is to get the Premier League title back and win it by as many points as possible,” he said.

“But I really believe he wants to get the FA Cup on board as well so both games this weekend are very important in terms of silverware.

“I reckon Sir Alex will go for his strongest team in both games.

“People talk about players needing rest but I think players will be playing two games in succession and there won’t be too many changes.”

A 1990 cup final replay defeat of Crystal Palace gave Ferguson his first Old Trafford trophy, with United now chasing a record 12th FA Cup win.

And while the 58-year-old – who also made 44 appearances for Chelsea– acknowledges the Blues’ threat, he believes United are well-equipped to book a semi-final date with rivals Manchester City.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” he added. “Chelsea gave a good account of themselves at Old Trafford in the second-half of the first tie.

“They will go into the game with a lot of confidence as they’ve had some good results of late but United will have a large 6,500 following and will not want to relinquish their FA Cup record.

“And there is a semi-final up for grabs and an incentive to play against Manchester City and stop them winning any silverware this year.”

United ended their Stamford Bridge hoodoo earlier this season, with October’s victory their first at Chelsea for a decade.

And while Thomas sees United’s striking prowess as key, he ultimately believes the match will be determined by the midfield battle.

“The key for me is can Chelsea cope defensively with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie – who will be hoping to get his goalscoring form back this weekend,” he said.

“So I think defensively Chelsea have to be strong if they are going to get anything out of the game.

“But for me, the midfield area is crucial in any game. I don’t care what team you’re playing against, if you win the midfield battle, you win the game of football.

“The midfield is crucial and I’m sure Carrick will start in both games, Carrick alongside Giggs maybe – a little bit of experience.”

With United bowing out of the UEFA Champions League to Real Madrid earlier this month, the FA Cup is likely to take on additional significance in the corridors of Old Trafford.

And despite suggestions to the contrary, Thomas – capped 51 times by Wales– believes the nation’s premier knockout competition retains its magic.

“Everyone loves the FA Cup – it’s got great history and everyone wants to be a part of it,” he said.

“The closer you get the more you want to run out and play at Wembley and when you get to the quarter-finals you’re in touching distance and you want to get there.

“Put it this way, I would rather be playing in an FA Cup final than be on holiday somewhere on a beach.”

The Welshman enjoyed an affinity with the FA Cup throughout his career – culminating in his equaliser as fourth division Wrexham knocked out reigning English league champions Arsenal in 1991.

Twelve years earlier, Thomas made it all the way to the final but recalls how Arsenal’s Alan Sunderland broke United hearts with his late winner.

“Most of my team-mates had been to Wembley before but it was a first time for me,” he said.

“To get to any major final is fantastic as a player but to lose in those dramatic circumstances was absolute devastation.

“It was impossible from where we were – two-nil down – to get back to two-all and lose it in the way we did was very hard to take.

“But just to take part in the FA Cup final and a game of that magnitude was magnificent for me as was just being a part of Manchester United and all that history.”

Image courtesy of Vauxhall, via YouTube, with thanks

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