Injuries - the one thing you hate these international breaks for. Thankfully, it's been a good one for Manchester United - none of the 14 internationals who were called up for their countries last week suffered any injury. This is, of course, assuming a twenty hour trip across the Atlantic did not cause any birdies to fly around in Chicarito or Antonio Valencia's heads. The South America duo were the last to get in to Carrington, and seem least likely to make an appearance against Sunderland. The Little Mexican, additionally, was a minor injury scare after being treated for cramps in his country's first qualifier, and looking off the boil in the second at home to the USA.
Even better for all United fans, it looks like Luis Nani, Paul Scholes and Phil Jones are all ready to return. With two games in three days, the news should come as a welcome boost, even if all three were expected back sometime now. This is what Sir Alex Ferguson had to say:
“Nani, Jones and Scholes are all doing a little bit of training, which is encouraging, Hopefully it will give us a good strong squad to approach the two games on Saturday and Monday. We'll try and keep the momentum going with he run we're in at the moment. If we do that, Monday will take care of itself.”
The momentum he is referring to, of course, is one that has seen the Red Devils open up a 15-point lead over their noisy neighbors. Over the week, the gaffer was even quoted by some newspapers as saying he expected more of a fight from the Citizens, almost admitting the current lead came without trying too much. He also expressed his hope that the current crop equal Jose Mourinho's record-setting 95 point haul in their unstoppable 2004-05 season.
Apart from the lack of injury over the break, Sir Alex was particularly pleased with Dutch superstar Robin Van Persie's trio of goals, one against Estonia and a brace (including a beautiful header) against Romania:
"He got the three goals for Holland. It's the same with all strikers. When they hit that little dry spell, they're hoping to get out of it as quickly as they can. Hopefully, those goals for Holland will help him to do that. His form has not changed, that's the most important thing, but the goals will certainly help and there's no question about that."
There's no denying that RvP looked his early-season unstoppable self in highlights of his headed goal. It is still to be seen, however, if the general tiredness that seemed to bother him before the break has been banished by some lively discussions on
Impressionist Art football with his fellow Oranje maestros. Sunderland were the team he scored his first Manchester United hat-trick against earlier this season, with three goals of undeniable class. Let's hope for a reprise on Saturday.