LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Tom Cleverley of Manchester United goes off injured during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on October 29, 2011 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson held his weekly pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of his side's upcoming trip to Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City. The headline news is that midfielder Tom Cleverley is expected to be out until around Christmas after suffering an ankle injury versus Everton FC at Goodison Park on October 29. Here is what the United boss had to say in regards to Cleverley:
"It’s worse than we thought. When he (Cleverley) came off against Everton he reported that it was just a bit of tightness, a bit of pain, but we’ve done further scans and he’s had a recurrence of the injury, so we’re going to have to give him a break until Christmas time, I think."
The news was more positive in regards to the injuries to Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, and Danny Welbeck. Young is fit enough after his toe injury to travel for Saturday's match in South Wales while Smalling and Welbeck will be unavailable for that tie. The latter two are hopeful to be available for the midweek tie versus Benfica in an important Group C UEFA Champions League clash. Welbeck was injured while on England duty during the recent international break. He was sent back to Manchester ahead of England's following match versus Sweden.
Here is what Fergie had to say about Young:
"Ashley Young is fit, he’s trained for the last seven or eight days and is available for tomorrow."
And about Smalling:
"Chris Smalling is not far away but I don’t think he’ll be back tomorrow, I think he’ll be ready for Wednesday."
And about Welbeck:
"No-one’s injured from the internationals, the ones who’ve played anyway, which is good. Danny Welbeck, as you know, came back with an injury from an England training session and he won’t be available for Swansea."
Cleverley's injury is quite obviously a blow to a side lacking currently lacking in midfield. United were off to a spectacular start at season's beginning and that coincided with the fine form of Cleverley and midfield partner Anderson. Since then -- and perhaps not coincidentally -- United have failed to duplicate that fine form. In addition, Ando has seen a dip in form since Cleverley's injuries. With the pileup of injuries that United have had in midfield, along with the simple lack of influence from those available in the center of the pitch, striker Wayne Rooney has put in shifts in central-midfield. It is possible that he will continue to do so in order until Cleverley returns. The talisman has offered more options in this area of the pitch during a congested fixture list while also using his vision and passing range to dictate matches.
Smalling's possible return versus Benfica could provide Fergie more options in defense with captain Nemanja Vidic's red-card suspension for that tie. With concern whether Rio Ferdinand can play multiple matches in a week due to fitness doubts, depth is a need -- especially with United playing three matches in an eight day span this week.
Young's return is a welcome one to a side currently lacking spark in attack. With Michael Owen's thigh injury keeping him out for six weeks, Welbeck's return from injury would provide Fergie four established strikers (Rooney, Chicharito, and Dimitar Berbatov) still to work with.