Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson held his weekly press conference ahead of Saturday's tie with Blackburn Rovers. The headline news is that defender Chris Smalling is out for the match because of tonsillitis. However, he is expected to return for either the midweek match versus Newcastle United or next weekend's FA Cup clash with Manchester City. Here is what Fergie had to say about Smalling:
"Chris Smalling has got tonsillitis. I know there are reports about glandular fever but they're off the mark. He had glandular fever as a kid but that's not the case here. He should be ready for the Newcastle game, at least definitely the Manchester City game in the FA Cup. He'll be ready for those games"
It's been well documented on how injuries are a huge concern at the club for the moment -- so much so that one could make a hypothetical 'unavailable XI' from the list of injured or ill players. Here is Fergie had to say about the rest of his injured/ill squad:
"We don't have much change. Obviously injuries to the defenders are quite a concern now, with Jonny Evans taken off at half-time [on Monday]. We're hoping Phil Jones will be fit, there's possibly an outside chance that Rio Ferdinand will get on the bench. Other than that, we're the same."
In defense, Nemanja Vidic is already out due to a season-ending injury as is Jonny Evans for a few weeks with a calf injury. Fabio is close to recovering but it appears that he is unavailable as well. With Ferdinand not fit to start versus Blackburn, that leaves only Patrice Evra, Rafael, and Jones as the only possible natural defenders as options to start -- and it appears that the latter is not guaranteed to be available. In addition, while Rafael has recovered from shoulder surgery, he has yet to feature this season in league for the first-team and his fitness and form remains a concern. Midfielder Michael Carrick is a strong possibility to start once again at center-back as is winger Antonio Valencia at right-back.
The other unavailable players for Blackburn include Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Ashley Young, and Michael Owen.
*UPDATE 11:23pm GMT* It appears that Vidic's surgery on his ruptured cruciate ligament has gone well. Here is the update that Fergie provided:
"He had surgery on Wednesday and came through fine. They didn’t remove anything at all, everything’s clear, but it’s a cruciate so it’ll be next season."
He provided these specific updates about Ando, Fabio, and the center-backs:
"Anderson’s coming on great. He’s showing great progress. He's trained well. We’re just monitoring him because he still has to do a lot of work in the gymnasium but he’s coming along. Fabio Da Silva’s not far away, he should be back in maybe 10 days. The centre-backs aren't long-term – they should be available in the next week or two."
Fergie also insisted that Cleverley and Owen are "nowhere near" returning:
"Cleverley’s a massive loss. He, to my mind, is probably the best midfield player in Britain, potentially. He has fantastic promise, so it’s a loss to us."