The headline news from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's press conference today was his not so subtle rebuttal to recent comments made by Manchester City's Patrick Vieira and Roberto Mancini. Beyond that drama though, there was actually a bit of team news. Earlier in the week, Fergie revealed that Phil Jones had recovered from his recent illness and that Nani was nearing a return as well after recently receiving a knock in training. Today, the United boss further provided an update on the increasingly positive injury situation for his squad:
"Jones and Smalling have been in and out with injuries and illness. Cleverley, Pogba and Fabio had bits of games. We're only waiting on Nani and Michael Owen now and expect both to start training with us next week."
- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com
Jones, Fabio, Chris Smalling, and Tom Cleverley all featured yesterday and went the full 90 minutes in the 3-1 Reserves victory over Aston Villa's Reserves. Paul Pogba also started the match but he was substituted off in the 61st minute. Fergie had this to say today about United's desire to retain the youngster -- Pogba's is currently involved in contract negotiations with the club as his current contract expires at the summer.
"We took Paul off [in the Reserves match] as he will be involved on Monday. We want him to stay because we think he's going to be a fantastic Manchester United player. We hope that's the case.
Fergie also had this to say about Monday's upcoming league match with Fulham FC:
"Every game is a must-win game. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going. It's funny how when you come to the crucial part of the season, everyone tends to get fit again. We are delighted with that. It does help your cause without question having a full squad. It gives me variety. You have to congratulate the players on achieving the position they are in because of the injuries we've had. It has not been a great season for us in terms of injuries. But the players have shown resilience. They have dug in and they are in the position they are now because of that. Now that we are starting to get players back, it strengthens our chances."
In addition to Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Anders Lindegaard, and Anderson being out with long-term injuries, it appears that Nani and Owen are also unavailable for Fulham -- although it's certainly a positive that the latter two will apparently return to training next week. The Pogba comment is somewhat interesting but the most likely scenario is him being involved in the 18 as Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick are very much first-choice right now in the center of the park. Antonio Valencia's stellar performance versus Wolves last weekend makes him probable on the right flank and with Nani still out, it is Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck in contention to start on the left flank. If Welbeck is chosen as a left-sided attacker, then Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) likely partners Wayne Rooney up front. If Welbeck is deployed up front, then Young is likely preferred to Park Ji-sung on the left-flank.