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By ESPN Staff

Sir Alex to give fringe players a run-out

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to give his fringe players a chance in the first team as the new year approaches.

With the festive programme forcing teams to play four matches in 10 days Ferguson, like many others, has found himself having to share the workload.

He left Cristiano Ronaldo, Gabriel Heinze and Louis Saha on the bench for the 3-1 Boxing Day victory over Wigan at Old Trafford and although Ronaldo came on at half-time to score twice and Heinze also made an appearance, Saha was unused.

Ferguson accepted he needed to try his best to keep players as fresh as possible.

'We are coming to the part of the season where we have to utilise the squad and I need to show some of the players who haven't been in the team regularly that I have confidence in them and that I trust them,' he said.

'I want them to feel they made a contribution. I also need them to have minutes on the clock in case we do pick up injuries and suspensions.'

Having put clear daylight between themselves and Chelsea once more, United are in no mood to allow the Londoners another opening to close the gap.

Nevertheless, Ferguson did not need to see events unfold at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day to know Reading will provide a stiff test for the Red Devils this weekend.

Steve Coppell's men have already held United to a richly-deserved draw at the Madejski Stadium this season and Ferguson has been impressed by the Royals' form this term.

'We have to be wary of Reading,' he said.

'I wasn't really surprised by the way they performed at Chelsea, although I was pleasantly delighted by the result. It just reinforced what we will have to do this weekend.'