Sir Alex Ferguson has given the biggest hint yet of how Manchester United’s defence could look on the opening day of the new Barclays Premier League campaign.
The Reds travel to Everton on Monday 20 August to kick off the 2012/13 season, but it’s a game that will come too soon for injured centre-backs Chris Smalling (metatarsal) and Jonny Evans (ankle). Throw into the mix the fact that Fabio has been sent on a season-long loan to Queens Park Rangers and Sir Alex’s back four will almost pick itself.
The boss will find himself with a similar selection non-dilemma on the European leg of Manchester United’s pre-season tour, a three-game trip that begins in Oslo this Sunday with a match against Norwegian side Valerenga.
“Chris Smalling is out for 10 weeks with his metatarsal operation and Jonny Evans is still just in light training," Sir Alex said. "They’re big losses at the moment and they will miss the start of the season.
“Rafael is away [on international duty with Brazil at the Olympics] and Fabio is away on loan so there are four defensive players that we don’t have for the back four positions.
“We do have Phil Jones, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, though. That will be the back four on tour. Hopefully we don’t get any more injuries as it would leave me a bit short.”
News of Vidic’s return is particularly pleasing for United fans, who haven’t seen the Reds skipper in action since he injured cruciate knee ligaments against FC Basel on 7 December 2011.
The Serbian spent last month continuing his rehabilitation at Carrington while his team-mates travelled to South Africa and China on the first two stages of the DHL 2012 Tour. But the 30-year-old is now nearing full fitness and will fly out to Oslo with the European tour squad on Saturday afternoon.