Ferguson confirms Smalling blow
Manchester United have suffered a major pre-season injury blow after England defender Chris Smalling was ruled out for up to 10 weeks with a broken metatarsal.
- Related Content
12. Chris Smalling
Smalling faces three months on the sidelines after suffering a broken metatarsal in training on Wednesday.
That the incident happened at Carrington, after the 21-year-old remained at home whilst his team-mates set off on their pre-season tour earlier this week just made it more galling because Smalling was trying to get fully fit from a groin injury that ended his last season earlier.
Instead, the former Fulham man is facing an extended spell on the sidelines, missing United's first half dozen Premier League games and their opening Champions League salvos, in addition to a likely England call-up for next month's friendly with Italy in Berne and the World Cup qualifiers beyond.
"It is a bad blow for the boy because he missed the end of the season with a groin injury," said Sir Alex Ferguson.
"We thought we had him on the right road to recovery and he gets another injury, which is bad news.
"He got it in training on Wednesday, was diagnosed on Thursday and we decided to operate on Friday night.
"Normally with a metatarsal you are looking at between 10 weeks and three months.
"He is only 21. He is young. Hopefully he gets over it."
If there is any consolation it is that with skipper Nemanja Vidic set to return from a cruciate operation during the second stage of United's pre-season and Phil Jones also available, Ferguson does have options even if Jonny Evans is unlikely to be fit for the opening trip to Everton on August 20.
Not that they looked very convincing on Saturday when it took a last-minute equaliser from Bebe of all people to avoid an embarrassing defeat to Ajax Cape Town.
United have had few players who have been maligned quite as much as Bebe, bought for £7million, by Ferguson's admission, without actually watching him play.
For virtually all of that time, he has appeared a very expensive mistake.
An attempt to inject some confidence into the Portugal Under-21 striker by sending him out on loan to Besiktas last year ended within weeks when he suffered a ruptured cruciate knee ligament.
And whilst he did not do that much following his second-half introduction into Saturday's 1-1 draw at Green Point Stadium, Bebe took his goal well enough.
"That was his first game for eight months," said Ferguson.
"His recovery is complete and he started training with us on July 5.
"He will be pleased to be back playing and pleased he scored a goal.
"We will wait and see how the season progresses for him.
"It does give me a headache the number of strikers I have got. But it is not the biggest problem."
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of Saturday's game, other than meaningful introductions for new arrivals Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell, was the performance of 18-year-old defender Tyler Blackett at left-back.
By sending Fabio on loan to QPR, Ferguson concedes he has left himself exposed in that area should anything happen to Patrice Evra.
Leighton Baines has been mentioned frequently as a potential target, although, unlike with Robin van Persie, Ferguson has not confirmed a bid for the Everton man.
At 18, it would be a brave call from Ferguson to place all his faith in Manchester-born Blackett.
However, the England Youth international has done enough already to prompt his manager into feeling a competitive game or two is not out of the question during the coming campaign.
"We have to look at that area because Patrice Evra has given us five years' worth of consistent performances," said Ferguson.
"If we were to lose him it would leave us short.
"Tyler is only 18 and young defenders have to be really special to play in the Premier League.
"But the experience will help him and he will get an opportunity to come in instead of Patrice."
United now head to China, for a game against Didier Drogba's new team Shanghai Shenhua on Wednesday, having taken the unusual decision of attempting to minimise potential jet-lag by arranging their schedules on European time.
Still, Ferguson seems enthused at what lies ahead, insisting he is giving no time to when he might eventually call it a day.
"Retirement is not in my thoughts," he said.
"It certainly won't be determined by the players I have at my disposal.
"Eventually age or health will catch up. You are not in control of these things really.
"But at the moment I am fit, I feel good and I have a good bunch of boys.
"They are ambitious and that drives me on."