It's been speculated and now it's been confirmed by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: Phil Jones will be unavailable for tomorrow night's UEFA Champions League tie against Real Madrid because of an ankle injury sustained against Reading in a recent FA Cup clash. It's obviously unfortunate because of the tremendous job the energetic 20-year-old did in providing inside cover against the unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo whenever the former United attacker drifted away from the left flank during the reverse leg at the Bernabeu. Without the Englishman, the Reds will be a different side at Old Trafford from the one that valiantly competed in Madrid. Here is what Ferguson had to say about Jones during his pre-match press conference held earlier today:
"Phil's not fit and won't be fit for tomorrow," Sir Alex stated. "I think his performance over there was absolutely excellent. It's a miss but we can't see it as something we can't manage. We've got options and hopefully we'll get that right. We must trust the players. That's what we always do and they must trust each other."
- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com
Ryan Giggs is currently sitting on 999 career appearances and the manager has stated recently that the legendary Welshman would make his 1,000th during tomorrow's grand European encounter. It's not certain, though, whether the midfielder will start or not:
"Ryan will be involved at some point tomorrow, either as a starter or on the bench. I haven't made my mind up yet. He'll be important to us."
In the front six, Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick are certain starters while Wayne Rooney is very likely as well. That likely leaves Giggs in contention for one of the three remaining spots.
In the back, Ferguson will select David de Gea in goal, Rafael at right-back, and Patrice Evra at left-back. In central-defense, the selection dilemma is between Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and Jonny Evans:
"The three centre-back [Ferdinand, Vidic, and Evans] playing well. It's a good problem for me to have. I'll make that decision tomorrow [about which two play]. I couldn't be happier with the three of them."
Rio was speculated to have missed Saturday's match with Norwich City because he had apparently been battling the flu. The former United and England captain likely would have been rested anyway with Real Madrid in mind because the manager is trying to avoid featuring the 34-year-old twice in a week. There are similar health concerns with Vidic because of his surgically repaired knee. The United captain started on Saturday so it's uncertain if he'll be risked four days later for tomorrow night's tie. This was a concern for Ferguson in the reverse fixture -- when a similar span of only two days rest was provided for Vidic from a previous game in which he featured -- so this might make it easier for the gaffer to give Evans the nod. The Northern Ireland international is in splendid form and he was tremendous at the Bernabeu.
Overall, United have a very healthy squad at the moment. Besides Jones, the only other unavailable players are Paul Scholes (knee) and Darren Fletcher (ulcerative colitis).