Date: 25th August 2008 at 4:24pm
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It is fairly certain that Paul Scholes will be one of our central midfielders tonight and possibly against Zenit on Friday. But who should partner him?

Michael Carrick’s injury means we are desperately short on available candidates here. I rule Darren Fletcher out of the running simply because in the absence of Ronaldo, Nani and Park he will be on the right flank. Therefore, we have four possible options.

Anderson has just returned from the Olympics, he’s played in the bronze medal game on Friday in Beijing so jet-lag and tiredness means he’s very unlikely to start – and it’s possibly inadvisable to stick him in the first eleven right away. I expect him to be fully fit for the visit to Anfield but no sooner than that.

John O’Shea played in central midfield against Newcastle – and consequently we lacked cohesion and precise passing as well as good defensive positioning. To put it simply: O’Shea is a great lad, an able deputy in defence but, and I say it for the hundredth time, he’s not a midfielder.

Rodrigo Possebon displayed more vision and range in his passing during his half-hour cameo than O’Shea ever will but he’s inexperienced and Fergie probably won’t risk him at a demanding ground like Fratton Park or against such a quality side like Zenit. He’s not yet ready to take on such physically imposing players like Diarra or Diop, though I think his football skills are superior to that of both aforementioned players.

Which neatly takes us to the most experienced candidate, Owen Hargreaves. He’s something of a dark horse at the moment: Fergie told us that he made encouraging progress after his injury but did not actually say whether he was deemed fit enough to start.

It is possible that it will come down to a last-minute assessment but the most likely scenario, in my opinion, is that O’Shea will start alongside Scholes. Fergie does not have much choice therefore I can’t blame him if he fields that partnership but our chances of winning are extremely slim in that case.

Still, it’s reassuring to have Anderson and Hargreaves on the bench (hopefully they’ll be there) and if either of them is capable of completing 45 minutes of football then we can register our first win of the campaign. And there’s always the chance that Fergie will go gung-ho, field Rafael da Silva on the right and stick Fletcher into the centre. It is a risk worth taking, in my opinion.