As club managers pick through the remains of the international break, Sir Alex Ferguson in particular could be forgiven for wielding his customary bone of contention with the use of his players for their national teams. Both of the Scot’s big-money summer signings, Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, return from duty with the Netherlands and Japan respectively with injury concerns that threaten their involvement in Saturday’s fixture against Wigan.
The duo have been impressive at the inception of their Old Trafford careers, and Ferguson will hope that this early form is not derailed by the setbacks suffered this week. Van Persie was withdrawn at half time of his side’s game against Hungary after taking a knock to his thigh. The Dutch Coach Louis van Gaal stated that the injury “doesn’t
Kagawa pulled out of Japan’s World Cup qualifier against Iraq an hour before kick-off after feeling a twinge in his back the previous day. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni did not wish to risk the 23-year-old, and surely the wrath of Ferguson, in the same way that van Gaal took van Persie off as a precautionary measure. The United manager has long been at odds with national associations over the release of his players for international duty, although the issue usually centres around unimportant friendly fixtures, rather than qualifiers for major tournaments.
However, most national teams have now played three times already this season, the same number of games that all sides apart from Sunderland and Reading have played in the Premier League. The round of friendly fixtures just days before the kick off of the new campaign continues to baffle, and can only serve to infuriate club managers as they attempt to prepare their players for the season opener, particularly after a major tournament such as Euro 2012.
In United’s case, there are also numerous injuries still being dealt with at the dawning of 2012-13 from last season and the summer, including the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans. Should, for instance, Nemanja Vidic had suffered an injury whilst on international duty at the start of the season, the consequences would have been dire at Old Trafford.
The deposed champions are looking to ease their injury concerns by opening up a new £13m medical centre at the club’s Carrington training ground, which will enable improved on-site diagnosis, rather than sending players to hospital. According to sports injury website www.physioroom.com, United were the side most affected by injuries last season, losing players to 1,681 days. Manchester City meanwhile suffered just 186 days lost to injury.
The new facility will aim to address United’s issues, but all the manager can do whilst his charges are on international duty is wait with baited breath for them to return unscathed. It does not appear to have been the case for Ferguson this time round.
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