Ferguson pays tribute to Hernandez
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he tinkered too much with his Manchester United line-up before hailing Mexican hotshot Javier Hernandez for another face-saving strike.
United came back from a goal down to defeat third-tier Southampton 2-1 in the FA Cup fourth round yesterday, with Hernandez grabbing the winner for his second goal in two games. The 22-year-old Mexican steered in the crucial goal, despite losing his footing in the execution, as he again proved his worth having scored in the 3-2 win at Blackpool in midweek.
"He's only had one chance and he's scored - one chance, one goal is a tremendous ratio," said Ferguson. "He has great feet in and around the box and gets his shots away quickly with hardly any backlift. His workrate is fantastic and he's always on the move. We probably didn't find enough space for him at times, but you also have to give Southampton a bit of credit too. Their defenders read things well."
After making wholesale changes to his side for the tie, Ferguson is expected to have his first choice back-four available for Tuesday's Premier League meeting with Aston Villa. A number of fringe players were given a start against Southampton while there was also a debut for goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
Ferguson made it clear it will be a more familiar line-up when his Premier League leaders tackle Villa as he expects Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Rafael da Silva all to have recovered from minor knocks.
"'Vida' should be all right," said Ferguson. "Rio started running on Thursday. Hopefully, he'll be okay by Tuesday. Rafael should be okay. He got the all clear [after suffering concussion] on Friday. So we should have our back-four back."
On Saturday, it took the second-half introduction of Ryan Giggs and Nani, and a switch from an unfamiliar midfield diamond formation, to swing the tie after Richard Chaplow had given the home side a 44th-minute lead.
"Sometimes we make it difficult for ourselves but, in fairness, I maybe meddled with the system somewhat this afternoon," admitted Ferguson, who had seen Michael Owen head in an equaliser. "We tried a diamond in the middle of the pitch and, of course, Manchester United are used to playing with width all the time and I think that was a problem for us.
"It wasn't working at all. We had some possession of the ball but we never really threatened. We had two or three shots from the edge of the box. It was a nothing first half, really, and the goal, if anything, made us play. Scoring the goal right on half-time motivated us a bit to do better."
Interest in Oxlade-Chamberlain
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins admitted he expected to be questioned by Ferguson about 17-year-old winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The teenager has emerged as a target for United, Arsenal and a host of other top clubs with speculation linking the player with a move away from St Mary's before the transfer window shuts tomorrow.
But Adkins insists his club have not received any offers for the player who he expects to be lining up against Exeter City in a league match on Tuesday. "We don't want to sell him. I think it's beneficial for him to be playing regularly in the football league," said Adkins.
"He is well-courted. He showed today he has ability about him but Southampton aren't looking to sell. I wouldn't be surprised if Sir Alex asks about him because he's a good lad. There is always going to be speculation, all the way through the transfer window."