Manchester United go into the weekend’s fixture against Blackburn Rovers with a quintet of missing players threatening to derail Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League progress. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, together with Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung and the suspended Gary Neville will likely miss the Old Trafford match.
“We have some doubts for tomorrow,” Ferguson said Friday at Carrington, United’s training complex.
“Ryan Giggs is a doubt but we hope he’ll be OK. Ferdinand and Vidic are both doubts – we’ll see what they’re like today. Gary Neville is suspended of course. Hopefully we can get one or two fit for tomorrow but we’re facing an uphill fight.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice centre-backs each have calf injuries. While Vidic’s problem is an ongoing concern, Ferdinand has spent almost as much time in the treatment room as on the pitch over the past year. If neither makes the match Jonny Evans is likely to partner Wes Brown at the heart of the United back-four.
“Vidic has had a calf problem for a few weeks now. We’ve seen a specialist about it so we’ll see what he’s like today. Rio and Vida both want to play after the disappointment of last Sunday,” Ferguson added.
Park, Ferguson added, returned from South Korea with a swollen knee and is likely to miss at least another fortnight. Meanwhile midweek goalscorer Wellbeck, substituted against Barnsley on Tuesday with a knee problem, is out for a similar time. Ryan Giggs, unlikely to be risked, has a tight hamstring.
But Ferguson, impressed with the young and fringe players’ victory over Barnsley on Tuesday, will be able to call Gabriel Obertan for the match. The Frenchman, highly impressive on début, is likely to find a place on the bench for his first taste of the Premier League.
“You have to get on with life,” Ferguson said.
“[The Carling Cup] was good for the young players to go away. Last year the ties were mostly at home. It is a different thing altogether and they acquitted themselves quite well.”
Ferguson must also choose between Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen for the striking partnership. While Rooney is likely to partner the Bulgarian, Owen staked his claim for a place with a high quality goal against Barnsley on Tuesday.
“It was a fantastic goal, real quality. It was a good finish, he showed how quick he is. He did well,” Ferguson said of Owen’s strike.
Blackburn meanwhile, hit with swine flu this week, will also be missing key players for the match. While Sam Allardyce’s team is likely to ‘park the bus’ at Old Trafford, the Lancashire club has tended to collapse in recent games against Chelsea and Arsenal. But a thumping 6-2 Carling Cup victory over Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough side midweek has increased the confidence at Ewood Park
“I spoke to Sam before the Chelsea game and he had concerns about the flu,” Ferguson said.
“He had players missing but David Dunn was back during the week and maybe others will be fit. Flu does happen but so far we are okay.”
But Ferguson, determined to put United’s Premier League challenge back on course after heartbreaking defeat against Liverpool, is wary of the threat from another local neighbour. Injuries to three key players hardly helps.
“I am not sure what kind of team Sam will be able to pick but it will be a hard game as it is a local derby. While I am told they have a poor away record, I think Sam has had to build a different team,” Ferguson added.