Manchester United to rotate squad for FA Cup clash with West Ham
Having built up a seven-point lead in the Premier League, Manchester United turn their thoughts to the FA Cup today when they visit West Ham United in the third round.
Cup winners a record 11 times, United have not lifted English football's oldest trophy since 2004 and have seen Chelsea dominate the competition in recent years, winning four of the last six tournaments. West Ham eliminated United from the FA Cup with a stunning fourth-round win at Old Trafford in 2001, and the Hammers could have a survivor from that game on the pitch after Joe Cole completed his move from Liverpool.
United also went out in the fourth round last season, losing 2-1 at Liverpool.
Manager Alex Ferguson has promised to rotate his squad as he seeks to keep his players fresh for the challenges ahead.
"We'll make a few changes for the cup tie," he said after Tuesday's 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic. "We've got fresh players, though. Young Shinji Kagawa came on against Wigan and Tom Cleverley is fresh as he's not had a lot of football."
United's match at West Ham is one of four all-Premier League ties, alongside West Bromwich Albion's trip to Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal's game at Swansea City and holders Chelsea's match at Southampton.
Manchester City, United's nearest rivals in the league, host second-tier Watford, with the FA Cup one of only two trophies they can now win after elimination from the League Cup and the Champions League.
Mario Balotelli was in line to replace the injured Sergio Aguero in City's attack.
But he may have jeopardised his chances of playing after being pictured in a furious training ground bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini.
Seventh-tier Hastings United will be hoping to pull off a shock of the round at Championship side Middlesbrough.