Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson held his typical pre-match press conference today ahead of tomorrow's Group C UEFA Champions League tie with Benfica. Going into matchday 5 of group play, the Reds are level on points with their upcoming Portuguese opponents but Fergie's side is top on goal differential. At the press conference, the United boss discussed the plethora of injuries in his side but perhaps the biggest piece of news is that talisman Wayne Rooney is expected to be fit after missing Monday morning's training session at Carrington. Here is a summary of the current injuries from Fergie:
"We've got one or two knocks from Saturday. Jonny Evans has some tightness in his hamstring but will hopefully be okay tomorrow. Wayne's got a few knocks and missed training today but should be okay. Chris Smalling trained this morning but won't be available for tomorrow - he should be okay for Saturday [against Newcastle] and Anderson is out injured."
It should probably be expected that both Evans and Rooney are available for the upcoming tie unless we are notified otherwise tomorrow night. Rooney's importance to the side does not need explaining but Evans' hamstring tightness is significant as well due to the limited options in defense. Captain Nemanja Vidic will be serving the last match of his European suspension while the availability of defenders Patrice Evra and Rafael are unknown. Evra was substituted off on Saturday versus Swansea City with some sort of apparent knock but Fergie made no mention of the Frenchman today. Rafael has been out the entire season thus far due to shoulder surgery but he did play the full 90 minutes last week in a Reserves match -- no mention was made of his availability as well. Smalling's injury further limits options for Benfica and Rio Ferdinand's availability to play two matches in a four day span is not guaranteed due to his recent fitness concerns. Furthermore, versatile defender Phil Jones has logged heavy minutes as of late due to his involvement with the England national team during the recent international break.
Anderson's injury is surprise news and despite his recent dip in form, his unavailability is a blow as it limits options in the midfield while United currently deal with a congested fixture list. Midfielder Tom Cleverley continues to be out due to an ankle injury and similar to Ferdinand, it is uncertain whether soon to be (November 29) 38-year-old Ryan Giggs is fit enough to start two matches in a four day span. During the reverse fixture, Fergie deployed his side with three central midfielders in Lisbon and if similar tactics are used, his midfield options may be somewhat limited. Rooney is an option there though.
Injuries also limit selection choices up top (this is getting depressing to write about now). Danny Welbeck sustained a muscle strain while on England duty and he was unavailable for the Swansea match this past Saturday. Again, no mention was made of the young striker today by Fergie so his availability is unknown. Michael Owen continues to be out with a long-term injury. This leaves Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) and Dimitar Berbatov -- along with Rooney -- as the most likely striker options.
Fergie also mused on the difficulty United has faced in regards to injury already during the young season:
"I think we've made some changes to the team at the start of the season. Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling got injured and Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were injured in the first game. So there were quite a few changes you don't envisage. You see everyone fit and fresh in pre-season and, going through the tour of the States, there was not one injury and then you're hit with a whole host [of them]. It doesn't disrupt us to a great degree but it does unsettle the balance of the team at times. Sometimes we have to rethink which team we need to win a match and sometimes, when the team is in full flow, you don't need to worry about that. We've had a few issues but hopefully we're gradually getting over them and, once we get the players back in again, we'll be okay."