International Break Comes at the Perfect Time for Manchester United
For all of Sir Alex Ferguson’s derisory comments about international breaks in the past, the upcoming two week gap in fixtures could not come at a more opportune time for the Manchester United boss. Tuesday’s Champions League win over Marseille was sullied by the fresh injuries to John O’Shea and Rafael da Silva, leaving United with only four fit defenders for Saturday’s game with Bolton.
The pair’s hamstring injuries look to keep them out of action for up to a month, meaning that only Fabio da Silva, Chris Smalling, Wes Brown and Patrice Evra will be fully fit in the coming weeks. Ferguson was however hopeful of getting Jonny Evans back for Saturday’s game after he started training this week, but any defence missing the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will undoubtedly be weakened significantly.
After the imperious Vidic was ruled out for three weeks with a calf injury, Brown and Smalling were given a second chance to convince against Marseille, after they were taken apart by Liverpool. But again they failed to encourage fans of their partnership after a ropey display, culminating in Brown’s own goal. While Smalling has been hugely impressive in recent weeks alongside Vidic, the experience of Brown cannot make up for the Serb’s influence and leadership that is so crucial to a young defender. Brown has always been a fine defender, but to the observer he seems very quiet on the pitch, something which can lead to uncertainty for a young defender like Smalling, who will naturally be looking for assurance and guidance as he learns his trade at the highest level.
The makeshift defence are sure to face a tough task against a physical Bolton side, and attack may well be the best form of defence for United, as they look to keep a firm grip on the number one spot in the Premier League. The battering ram style of Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander could well cause problems at the back, especially with the in-form Daniel Sturridge looking to prove himself against the best teams in the country. Thankfully for the Red Devils, it seems that things are steadily improving at the other end, with Wayne Rooney in good form and the timely return of Antonio Valencia.
The break could also be beneficial for the likes of Valencia as he aims to improve his fitness and play an important part in the remainder of the season. In the two substitute appearances since returning from his dislocated ankle, the Ecuadorian has already shown glimpses of the quality which so endeared him to United fans in his debut season. There is no doubt that seeing Valencia and Nani on opposite wings will be an extremely exciting sight for United fans, as when in full flight they are two of the more devastating wingers around.
And for other players coming back from injury the break will give them a chance to impress Ferguson while others are away with their countries. It has been confirmed that Owen Hargreaves has returned to training as well as Michael Owen and Evans. With Anderson due to return soon as well, a strong United squad could well be coming back together as the season’s end nears. If all were to reappear after the internationals it would provide a huge lift to everyone concerned with the club, and it might just be that optimism that leads United on their charge for the Treble.
But before all that United must overcome their current injury problems and find a way past a solid Bolton team on Saturday to ensure that they head into the break on a positive note and stave off the challenge from Arsenal.
Do you think the break can help United? Will the defence be able to cope with Bolton? Let us know by leaving your comments below.
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