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Feb 15, 2012

Evra heads omitted United trio

Manchester United jetted off to Amsterdam on Wednesday night without Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs and Dimitar Berbatov, with the manager later explaining that Evra would not be involved as it has been "an emotional week for him".

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• Benatia dreams of United move

United will play their first ever Europa League game against Ajax on Thursday night and will name a strong team with no domestic fixture at the weekend. But manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be without three of his star names.

Giggs, whose next game will be his 900th in United colours, was always expected to remain in Manchester to preserve his long-term fitness but it is a surprise that captain Evra has not boarded the plane.

Ferguson later explained that Evra's absence was down to the events of the weekend, when Luis Suarez neglected to shake his hand ahead of the 2-1 victory over Liverpool.

"We have rested Patrice," Ferguson said. "It has been an emotional week for him and it is the right thing to do."

On the problems with Liverpool, he added: "We are all delighted that we have put the matter to an end. The two clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool, have too much great history and great rivalry. That is what we are going to concentrate on in the future.

"Both sets of supporters should be pleased and delighted that all we are going to talk about is who is going to win the game. Sometimes we will lose to Liverpool, sometimes we will win, but one thing you cannot take away is that both of us need each other."

The idea was pitched to Ferguson that he was taking victory for granted against former European champions Ajax by leaving three firstteam players out.

"You've got that wrong," he replied. "Ryan Giggs and Dimitar Berbatov are injured. You can see the list of players I have - apart from the fact [Chris] Smalling, [Nemanja] Vidic and [Darren] Fletcher are still injured, it's a strong squad of players I've got."

Nani and Phil Jones, who have not been in the matchday squad since January 22, could make their return after being confirmed in the squad for the trip to the Amsterdam ArenA. Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Paul Pogba and Zeki Fryers are also named.

The last time United competed in a European match outside the Champions League was in 1995, when they were beaten on away goals by Russian outfit Rotor Volgograd in a UEFA Cup first round tie.

Mexican striker Javier Hernandez is looking forward to the tie, even if it is in Europe's much-maligned secondary competition.

"Both teams have come out of the Champions League and they both have a great history,'' said Hernandez. "We have won a lot of European Cups between us, so it will be a very interesting game.

"We need to get used to the fact we are not in the Champions League this season. And the history of Manchester United is such that it doesn't matter which competition you are in, we want to win it, no matter who else is in it or whether it is an important trophy for other teams.''

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