Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that he rested Ruud van Nistelrooy at Fulham on Saturday because he is worried about the striker suffering from burn-out.

Ferguson was criticised for not startig with his leading scorer, as United stumbled to a 1-1 draw which left them trailing leaders Arsenal by 9 points.

“Ruud didn’t feel sharp after the game against Porto,’ said Ferguson. ‘I decided on a bit of freshness up front.

“I’ve said before that Ruud’s been carrying the burden for a long time and it’s time we started to look at that.”

“One of the reasons I signed Louis Saha was to ease the pressure on Ruud.”

Van Nistelrooy has started 25 out of United’s 27 Premiership games this season and six out of seven Champions League games, scoring 24 goals.