Fergie’s defensive boost
Key men Van der Sar and Ferdinand set to return for United
MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been given a twin defensive boost with the imminent returns of Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and England centre-back Rio Ferdinand.
Ahead of today’s Premier League match against Burnley at Old Trafford, Ferguson has revealed that two of his defensive pillars are on the verge of getting back into his plans after recent absences.
Ferdinand has not played for United since the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on October 25 after suffering a recurrence of a back complaint causing shooting calf pains.
Van der Sar has been on compassionate leave after recovering from a knee injury.
The Dutchman’s wife, Annemarie, had a brain haemorrhage before Christmas that required drastic and serious hospital treatment which prompted Ferguson to grant him indefinite compassionate leave.
But the 39-year-old is now ready to return.
And in further good news for Ferguson, Owen Hargreaves is also edging his way towards a first United start in 16 months as his recovery from tendonitis is progressing.
Ferguson took his squad to Qatar last week to escape the Arctic conditions in England and is confident the warm weather training has aided his side’s preparation.
“We have some light at the end of the tunnel during the week with Edwin van der Sar coming back to training,” Ferguson said yesterday.
“He’s done very well, he’s obviously been out for a few weeks with a personal situation but it’s great to see him back and his experience will be important to us.
“We took Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves with us to Qatar and both took part in some of the work we were doing – he is making good progress now.”
Ferguson’s injury concerns are not completely over though as he revealed that United are still having to closely monitor the progress of striker Dimitar Berbatov.
The Bulgarian has been struggling with a knee injury for the last month which is restricting his flexi- bility and movement on the field, but he has told Ferguson he does not want to miss any of United’s season and will put off a thorough examination until the end of the year.
“He wants to play through it, he doesn’t want an operation,” he added.
“The advice was to have an exploratory operation but sometimes he feels it and sometimes he doesn’t.
“He didn’t feel it in the warmer cli- mate so he trained every day so it is something you want to keep your eye on – it’s a difficult one,” said Ferguson.
Burnley appointed Brian Laws on Wednesday to replace the Boltonbound Owen Coyle as new manager.
Laws is set for a daunting first game against the Premier League champions away from home.
But, although Ferguson believes Burnley are in for a tough second half of the season, he thinks Laws can help the Clarets climb the table.
“Brian has experience, he has been at Sheffield Wednesday and experience is what they need at the moment,” Ferguson said.
“I think they have to react quickly. because the second half of the season is never easy and they will be battling to avoid relegation and that is not easy for them.” – Sapa-AFP
GOALIE RETURNS: Edwin van der Sar ready after absence
BACK: Rio Ferdinand set to return after injury