Sir Alex Ferguson insists Manchester United will overcome the twin injury blow of losing Rio Ferdinand and skipper Nemanja Vidic during yesterday’s 2-1 win at West Brom.
Ferguson’s central defensive stalwarts both limped off during the second half of the first game of United’s Barclays Premier League title defence.
Ferdinand appears the most serious, sidelined for six weeks with a hamstring problem that also means he will miss England’s Euro 2012 double-header against Bulgaria and Wales next month, as well as the start of United’s latest Champions League quest.
“Rio has a hamstring injury. He will be out for six weeks,” said Ferguson. “With Nemanja, we hope it is a nerve in his calf.
“He felt it prior to the game but he wanted to play. That may be a couple of weeks.”
With young full-back Rafael ruled out for 10 weeks after dislocating his shoulder in training, Ferguson suddenly has a worrying list of defensive problems ahead of a difficult start, that now pits his side against Tottenham and Arsenal at Old Trafford over the next fortnight.
The bright spot for Ferguson is the anticipated return of Patrice Evra from a knee injury against Spurs next Monday.
“We can always put Fabio on the right if we need to. We also have Chris Smalling, so we will get through,” he said.
New £18million goalkeeper David de Gea was in the spotlight’s glare, encountering difficulties dealing with the traditional high balls into the box and compounding those anxieties by diving clean over the top of Shane Long’s strike from an acute angle, gifting West Brom an equaliser which they had not looked like getting up to that point.
It does seem United have plenty of work ahead of them in order to get the 20-year-old battle-hardened and physically up to the demands of life in England.
“He is young. He will learn. He will come through,” said Ferguson.
n Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas described the pushing and shoving by Stoke’s players as “out of this world” after beginning his managerial career in the Barclays Premier League with a goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium.
It was a frustrating debut for the 33-year-old Portuguese, who saw his side take control of the game in the second half without managing to break the deadlock.
Referee Mark Halsey turned down three concerted penalty appeals by Chelsea but it was the degree of physical contact in both boxes that vexed Villas-Boas.
He said: “A point I want to make when you are playing difficult games like this one is the amount of pushing and grabbing in the box, because it’s out of this world.”