Rio Ferdinand’s withdrawal from England’s World Cup squad with knee ligament damage was followed today by Portugal’s Nani, who suffered a bruised collar bone in training. Manchester United’s World Cup contingent is now seven; heartache for the players who have dropped out to date, delight for manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Nani picked up the injury on Friday in Lisbon after an attempted overhead kick during training. The winger, who was in superb form for United in the second half of last season, fell heavily before being rushed to hospital for tests.
With neither injury to Ferdinand nor Nani considered long-term, both players could be fit for pre-season training, which begins in Chicago on 12 July. Ferdinand will miss four to six weeks, while Nani’s exclusion from Portugal’s squad was only confirmed after three days of medical tests.
“Following the injury suffered by Nani, which involves his left collar bone, and daily assessment of the injury and additional medical tests, we have concluded that the player is no longer competitive,” said a Portuguese FA statement today.
“The medical file will be sent to Manchester United’s medical team. In light of the report, the Portuguese Football Federation, taking into account the FIFA regulations for the 2010 World Cup, will call-up Ruben Amorim as a replacement.”
While Ferdinand remains in South Africa with Fabio Capello’s England squad, offering the travelling media ample photo opportunities and his colleagues moral support, Nani has already been replaced in Portugal’s squad by midfielder Amorim.
Nani joined colleagues on the sidelines for Portugal’s match with Mozambique at Johannesburg’s Bidvest Wanderers Stadium this afternoon, before returning to Lisbon later today, according to local media reports.
United’s World Cup contingent is one of the smallest parties from the Old Trafford club in recent years, reflecting the retirements of Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar and Ryan Giggs, and long-term injuries to Michael Owen, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves.
Indeed, Ferguson will not complain that so few of his squad will compete in the tournament this summer, with only Javier Hernandéz, Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, Zoran Tosic, Patrice Evra and Park Ji-Sung likely to start games, with Michael Carrick a probable substitute against USA on Saturday.
The smart money says that of the group the English, French and Serbian players are most likely to qualify for the tournament’s knock-out stages and therefore miss United’s pre-season tour to the US, Canada and Mexico in its entirety.
Ferguson has promised to give each player 28 days rest before beginning an individual pre-season programme as has been customary after previous tournaments.
“I’m going to have a big squad of first-team players,” Ferguson said recently.
“So it’s not a problem for me. I know, the experience of World Cups in the past, having to deal with the aftermath of it is always difficult. They need a rest.”
Meanwhile, Serbia defender Vidic could miss the Bella Ovi’s opening fixture against Ghana in Pretoria with a virus, according to coach Radomir Antic. The White Eagles are considered one of the tournament’s dark horses, with a side built on an outstanding back-four marshalled by Vidic.