Fergie’s de­fen­sive boost

Key men Van der Sar and Fer­di­nand set to re­turn for United

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

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