Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson just held his weekly press conference and the main piece of team news is that his entire squad is nearly fit. There is Darren Fletcher, of course, out for the remainder of the season due to illness but the gaffer indicated that all of his players on international duty during the midweek pretty much came back unscathed. He's yet, though, to hear from Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) as the striker is still on his way back to Manchester from Mexico. (MUFC international round-up)
The main fitness concerns as of late have been Ashley Young and Phil Jones. The former had been anticipated to be nearing a return and he's now fit to feature against Everton on Sunday if selected. Stuart Pearce, England's U-21 boss, caused concern earlier in the week when he said Jones had been diagnosed with shingles. Apparently, though, the 20-year-old is not as ill as initially thought. Here's the team news update Ferguson provided:
"So far everyone has come back fit from their excursions into the rest of the world. The only one we’re waiting on is Chicharito. I’ve not had anything back that says he’s not fit so I expect everyone to be fit from their games. On our own front, Ashley Young is fit again, Michael Carrick should be okay and Phil Jones will hopefully be okay, irrespective of Stuart Pearce coming out and declaring he had shingles - which we thought was doctor confidence. We’re disappointed in that, but it’s not anything serious for the boy. It’s a mild condition that has surfaced but he should be okay."
- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com
This is obviously all wonderful news. Carrick withdrew from England duty earlier in the week but speculation was that he'd probably be fine for Everton and for next week's UEFA Champions League at Real Madrid. Expect the midfielder to feature in both of those matches.
It'll be interesting to see how Ferguson uses Young in the next week. United's other natural wingers -- Nani and Antonio Valencia -- aren't in great form so the Englishman may get a look against Everton and/or Madrid. United will need someone to provide genuine width in Spain and if Ferguson doesn't trust Nani nor Valencia to do so, Young might be the man for the job.
If Jones is available this upcoming week, then he provides Ferguson options in central-defense, at right-back, or in midfield. The energetic 20-year-old could be deployed in a role similar to the one he played a few weeks ago at White Hart Lane: against Tottenham Hotspur, Jones defended an inside-right zone in midfield and from here, he was able to provide inside cover against Gareth Bale when he cut inward from an initial wide position and against Moussa Dembele when the midfielder made driving runs forward. With Cristiano Ronaldo in mind, Ferguson could ask Jones to play a similar role -- if the versatile defender and midfielder is fit -- at the Bernabeu.