At his weekly pre-match press conference today, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that Anderson will be out until February with a knee injury. It is not entirely clear when or how the Brazilian midfielder sustained his injury but here is what the United boss had to say about him and the overall fitness state of the central midfield:
"It's in the midfield area where we've still got issues with Tom Cleverley and Anderson. It's not good news about Anderson, we don't think he'll be fit until February. He's got this knee injury and we've sent him back to Portugal to see the specialist who operated on his knee last time. That's a bit of a blow, we didn't expect that one. So that's the two midfield players who are going to be missing for a spell now. The manager insists he still has enough options in the middle of the park - even though injuries have taken their toll in the position this term. We're not as bad as people think we are in midfield," he stressed. "Ryan Giggs gives you experience of course, Michael Carrick’s form in the last two games has been outstanding. He had a little bit of a problem with his Achilles earlier on in the season but he’s got over that now and the grounds are softer now of course which helps. Darren Fletcher, given the right preparation, is always a very, very good player for us. Getting Tom Cleverley back would be a bonus if we can get him back around Christmas time. It would be a bonus to get him back because he’s such a clever footballer. I think we’re okay, we’ve got a strong squad."
That was clever use by Fergie to call Cleverley clever.
In more positive news, it appears that Wayne Rooney is set to return after missing the midweek tie versus Benfica in the UEFA Champions League.
"I think Wayne Rooney should be okay for tomorrow. He trained yesterday so hopefully he'll be okay."
Fergie also provided positive news for the defense while reminding that striker Michael Owen is still unavailable due to injury:
"We've got Vidic back after suspension, of course. Smalling is fit again, which is also a boost, and Rafael's back as well. So the defensive part is okay. Michael Owen's also still injured, of course. "
The United boss also mused briefly on whether the club would bring in more players in the upcoming January window:
"It's dead easy to say you'll go out and buy players," he warned. "But it's not easy to buy players who are good enough for Manchester United, especially in January."I could choose two or three players who you’d like to have at this club who are not available. So there’s no point in even going there."
In defense, United appear mostly healthy now but the status of Jonny Evans is slightly uncertain. He was unavailable for the Benfica match and it had been speculated that he had sustained a knock prior to. No update was given today. The return of Rafael and Smalling are certainly welcome as each provides both quality and depth. The former went the full 90 minutes last week during a Reserves match while the latter came on as a substitute versus Benfica. Both are candidates to start versus Newcastle and provide rest to the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, and Patrice Eva -- each of whom just played two matches in a four day span.
Anderson's injury is a blow to a midfield that perhaps lacks a bit of depth now. Despite a recent dip in form after a splendid start to the season, the Brazilian would have provided valuable depth for an upcoming fixture list that will be quite congested. As Fergie mentioned, the club has dealt with recently minor knocks to Giggsy, Fletch, and Carrick. This is along with Cleverley's long-term ankle injury. Options in central midfield now appear to be Giggs, Fletch, Carrick, youngster Paul Pogba, Rooney, and Ji-Sung Park.
Up front, it can maybe be anticipated that Rooney will start alongside Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) at Old Trafford on Saturday. The latter came on only as a substitute versus Benfica and he should be well rested for the Newcaste tie. No injury update was provided on striker Danny Welbeck. The England international sustained a muscle injury while on national team duty recently and he has been unavailable for United since.