27/11/2009 09:47, Report by Ben Hibbs

Irish pair still out

United are still struggling with defensive injury problems – with John O’Shea and Jonny Evans highly unlikely to appear at Portsmouth on Saturday, but Sir Alex Ferguson says the consolation for his back four woes is the form of Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic.

Patrice Evra will join them in defence at left-back, while Sir Alex has the option of either Gary Neville or Rafael for the right-back slot.

“Our concerns still centre around John O’Shea and Jonny Evans. They are both very doubtful for Saturday," revealed the boss at his pre-match press conference. "So we will have to go with defenders we have at the moment. Gary Neville is fit, as is Rafael, and Patrice Evra will come back in. But I’m really pleased with the form of Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic. They’ve been fantastic in recent games."

The form this season of Wes Brown, who suffered another injury-blighted campaign last term, has been a significant boon for Sir Alex, who has been pleased with the understanding struck up with Vidic in recent weeks.

“I reiterate my point that when Wes is fit he’s the best natural defender in the country,” added the boss. “His partnership with Vidic is fantastic and that gives us a solid base. They are both natural defenders and they have the experience.”

It’s just as well, as Rio Ferdinand is said to be “making progress” with his back injury, but is not looking at an imminent return. “Rio is coming along,” said Sir Alex. “He is making progress but it’s difficult with back injuries. Nature sometimes helps you, and we are looking forward to him coming back.”


Premier League