21-year old Gerard Pique has long been heralded as a future first-choice center-back for Manchester United and a successor to Rio Ferdinand. He’s done well whenever he’s been called upon this season and with more playing experience in the first-team squad there is every chance that he could blossom into an imposing central defender.
Ferguson himself praised Pique’s contributions against Middlesbrough on the weekend:
“Pique came on and did brilliantly against Middlesbrough. He was marvellous. The lad’s a terrific player and I think that actually helped us. We’ve got great confidence in the lad and he’s come through very well.”
Considering that Rio and Vidic are both injured and presumably out of action till Saturday at least, United now have 4 players who can slot in central defence: Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Gerard Pique and Mikael Silvestre. Silvestre is perhaps the most experienced but also the least fit, Brown is almost certain to start in the middle after performing reliably for Manchester United this season (and climbing up to 19th in the Actim Index in the process), O’Shea is the experienced pairing while Pique is the wildcard choice – less experienced but perhaps a better defender.
Then there’s the right-back position, where Neville, O’Shea or Hargreaves could start, and the left-back position where Evra hasn’t had a break for a while and might get a breather if there are enough players available.
With Totti unavailable for the game and the trio of Vucinic, Mancini and Taddei likely to form the fulcrum of Roma’s attack, United could be in for another evening where high balls cause them some trouble.
Who would you pick to start for United in central defence: Pique or O’Shea?