It’s back to business after what has been an intriguing international break with the concluding World Cup qualifying group matches taking place. Many a soul has missed Premier League football over the last two weeks and none more so than Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. For the one time Scotland manager the break and loss of many of his players poses a vast array of potential problems of which the Scot is powerless to prevent. The single biggest one being injury. Sir Alex’s nails have been sure to have taken a battering watching each and every challenge involving his key players with bated breath.
The main damage seems to have come in the form of Wayne Rooney taking a knock in the Ukraine which ruled him out of the second England match at home to Belarus. It is likely that Rooney will be assessed fully before Saturday’s visit of Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford, with no noises coming out of Carrington as to the likelihood of him making the match. Much to the annoyance of the United boss, Rio Ferdinand played two consecutive games in a week for the first time this season. This will no doubt have provided Rio with some much needed match practice – his performance against the Ukraine clearly showing a little rustiness – but Ferguson would have much preferred his man to have achieved this milestone for club not country. The fact that the England boss has played Ferdinand for the full 90 minutes in what in the eyes of the Scot were two meaningless games will have angered him greatly. There are some tough games on the horizon for United – most notably an Anfield away day at the end of the month following the trip to Russia to face CSKA – in which Ferdinand will be a key ingredient for any form of success. He will no doubt be feeling the effects of his England exploits and it is likely that Saturday’s game will come too soon for him. The Bolton game on paper should not pose too much of a test for United but following the poor performance against Sunderland last time out it is imperative the three points are gained.
Enough of the doom and gloom on the injury front, there is good news for Sir Alex concerning no less than four first team players. Rafael da Silva, Edwin van der Sar and Gabriel Obertan have all made appearances for the reserve side and Owen Hargreaves has been back in full training for a couple of weeks now. Van der Sar is expected to replace Ben Foster in goal for the Bolton game for his first appearance of the season which is something that will be delighting all United fans greatly. The big Dutchman has been missed by United fans and players alike.
We are all familiar with three of the four players on the road to recovery but one remains somewhat of a mystery. Obertan was signed for £3m from Bordeaux this summer but has yet to make his first team debut due to a spinal problem. He pulled on the United shirt for the first time this week in the 3-0 Manchester Senior Cup win over Oldham playing 45 minutes. He was the most valuable player in this year’s Toulon International Youth Tournament, which is a stat which appears in every article written about the 20-year-old but that is pretty much all we know. Those who made the trip to Hyde for the Oldham game may be able to shed some more light on the matter but the rest remain intrigued although a little weary following his former manager Laurent Blanc’s comments in which he admitted his surprise at United wanting the Frenchman.
Sir Alex has stated he has two good feet, can play on either wing, has some pace and a trick or two. Sounds promising but then he was loaned out to a Ligue 1 side last season and only scored once in fifteen games. He is at the right club when it comes to promising young wingers and having seen him in the flesh a couple of times, this writer knows he has the build his physical stature to withstand Premier League football. What may be in question is whether he has the head to take on the mantle of playing for a club the size of Manchester United as he has been described as a player who has lost his way slightly even in this early stage of his career. All United fans will be hoping that Sir Alex can tame another wayward Frenchman into some sterling performances as the other right wing options this season certainly have not set the world alight. There is no doubt Obertan is still young but in today’s game players are required to step up at a very young age. He is at one of the biggest club’s in the world who have shown faith in him after a difficult time at Bordeaux and now may be the time to step up to provide some much needed attacking impetus to his new side. The United fans are waiting with keen interest to see if he can do it.
Manchester United Club Focus
Welcome to Manchester, Michael – July 29
Goals from midfield the order of the day – August 5
Respect the consistency – August 12
Injury plague piles pressure on forwards – August 18
Usual slow starters living up to their reputation but is there cause for concern? – August 22
Enter the Champions – August 25
Anderson and Vidic pledge their allegiance – August 28
Win fails to hide Rooney’s need for a wingman – September 1
Ferguson sticking to his guns – September 4
Fingers pointed towards Old Trafford – September 8
Legal issues and a tough trip to north London – September 11
The two sides of Paul Scholes – September 15
A win in Turkey and a derby day to come – September 18
Fletcher revels in the “best derby of all time” – September 22
Tough trip to Stoke after lacklustre cup performance – September 25
Giggs leads by example – September 29
Giggs hits another milestone – October 2
Wiley bears brunt as Red Devils falter – October 6
Back to the matter at hand – October 16