Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson held his weekly pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of his side's upcoming weekend clash with Liverpool FC (Match Preview: Manchester United vs. Liverpool). The headline news on the injury front is that Tom Cleverley is set to face Liverpool tomorrow afternoon. The midfielder was off to a stellar start at the season's beginning but injuries have plagued him since the Fall. His last appearance for the club was at Goodison Park on October 29 when he limped off versus Everton FC. Here is what Fergie had to say about Cleverley:
"Tom's training well. We were disappointed the Chelsea Reserves game was called off on Monday. The plan was for him to stay over with us [after last Sunday's first-team game at Stamford Bridge] and play in the game on the Monday. That was called off. But he's trained very well and he'll be involved tomorrow."
Fergie also provided this overall update on his squad, including specific mentions of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones:
"There’s not much change on the injury front for us. I think Smalling could be available, but all the rest is as it was last Sunday. Phil Jones got a knock against Manchester City, which he never quite recovered from. He'll be fit for next week. He'll be fit for the Ajax game."
If "not much change on the injury front" is accurate for United, that means the likes of captain Nemanja Vidic, Darren Fletcher, Anders Lindegaard, Michael Owen, Nani, and Anderson are all unlikely to be available tomorrow -- along with Jones. No mention was made of Rio Ferdinand so we are only left to assume that his chronic back issue will not prevent him from featuring at Old Trafford.
It's interesting that Fergie mentions the Ajax game for Jones as that Europa League tie could be an opportunity for some first-team squad members to get a run -- whether that be for those recently returning from injury or for those that have struggled to find regular playing time as of late. Players like Nani, Anderson -- who both are thought to be very close to recovery from their injuries -- and Jones could use this for a relative soft-landing return while the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Ashley Young, Fabio, Ben Amos, and youngster Paul Pogba could see it as an opportunity for getting a game. Despite what Fergie may say publicly, winning the Premier League title again is the clear focus right now for United while the Europa League is undoubtedly the club's second priority. For the reasons mentioned above, the competition can still have it's uses though.
Fergie also mused during the press conference on his side's recent performances versus Chelsea FC and Liverpool, and on tomorrow's match as well:
"I think our performance levels in the last few weeks have been good, but we're losing goals in important games and that's a bit of a concern. Last week, Juan Mata's goal was a fantastic strike - we couldn't do a thing about that - but an own goal and a deflected goal... we should do better. We lost two soft goals against Liveprool in the FA Cup and that shouldn't be happening at our club. We expect a hard game tomorrow but I'm just looking for the sort of performance we've been showing recently. That should help us."