Fergie rues injury crisis but reckons United will be at full force by March
Manchester United will be in a better position to defend their Premier League title by March, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Red Devils chief has been hit by major injuries to key players, with skipper Nemanja Vidic out for the season after a cruciate knee injury and midfielder Darren Fletcher ruled out indefinitely with a debilitating bowel condition.
Up-and-coming midfielder Tom Cleverley has been out since late October with an ankle problem, while winger Ashley Young and defenders Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are still sidelined.
Ferguson said: “It’s been a difficult period for us, especially in midfield, losing Fletcher and, particularly, the promise of Cleverley. That was a big blow for us because he was showing things that we haven’t had a midfielder do – we haven’t had that type of midfielder for years and years.
“That was a loss and so was losing Anderson for three months. But we have managed to cope with it OK until Blackburn, when we had a patched-up team with Rafael and Park Ji-Sung in midfield.
“We know Ji-Sung isn’t a central-midfield type of player and we were overrun because they played three central-midfield players. So we’ve been unlucky in that respect.
“We are where we are – and that’s three points behind the team that’s top of the league. We have to hope we don’t get many more injuries. If we keep getting the injuries we’ve been getting it’s going to be very difficult for us.
“We hope by March everyone should be fit. We should get Smalling training by Monday and Evans’ calf injury should be a week away.
“The plan for Cleverley is to start him running two weeks on Monday and join us maybe in the following week. He’s maybe a month away. Ashley Young is easily a month away, too.
“The bleeding never came out quickly from his injury after the Fulham game. We’ve not taken the scans because we can’t do anything until the bleeding is out.
“I don’t think it’s a serious injury but we can’t pre-judge it until we know all the facts. Then there is Michael Owen. When he gets an injury it’s always a bad one – but I think by the middle of February he should be back for us.”