Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson held his weekly pre-match press conference today rather than on his usual Friday exchange with the media. The headline news is that Rio Ferdinand, who was substituted off at the past weekend for precautionary reasons after his back tightened up, is apparently fine and available for selection for the clash versus Blackburn Rovers on Monday. Here is what the United boss had to say about his squad's overall injury situation and about his defender:
"We have the same squad as on Monday night, there are no changes. Rio is okay - he just felt a bit stiff. We know the situation with that - we addressed it right away and put [Chris] Smalling on. He's fine."
- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com
During last week's press conference, Fergie indicated that Nani was expected to return to training this week and it appears that the winger is on schedule -- although he likely will not be available for the trip to Ewood Park:
"We expect Nani to train tomorrow but the game will come too soon for him."
There had been rumors this week that Anders Lindegaard would miss the remainder of the season due to injury. However, while he did appear to have a setback this week, Fergie indicated that the Dane should be returning at some point during the run-in:
"[Anders] Lindegaard was training very well and maybe overdid it. We've given him a week off and he should be back before the end of the season."
The manager also had this to say about the upcoming trip to Blackburn:
"Blackburn is always a difficult type of game. It's always a bit feisty and has a local derby feeling about it. Last season we came back from a goal down to win the league. We expect a difficult game - that's the way all the games will be. You can look at all the games and say Blackburn, QPR, Wigan and Villa are all fighting for their lives. Hopefully we can navigate them. It's important for us to make sure we get in front in games."
United miss having European nights this time of the season, although there is a benefit from not being involved:
"We've been used to playing Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday - we miss it. But it does give us freshness. We'd rather have Champions League games though."
lf it is indeed the 'same squad' for Monday night, that means along with Nani and Lindegaard, the likes of Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Anderson, and Michael Owen are all unavailable for the Blackburn tie. David de Gea is the undisputed No. 1 while Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, and Patrice Evra are automatic selections in the back. Rafael and Phil Jones -- the latter returns to the ground of his former club for the first time since his arrival at United -- are likely in contention at right-back. With Nani out, that means the in-form duo of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are likely to start on the flanks. Danny Welbeck will also be in contention to feature out wide or up front -- along with Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) -- to be Wayne Rooney's partner.