FOOTBALL NEWS

Central defensive options:
Jonny Evans (Injured)
Rio Ferdinand
Phil Jones (Injured)
Chris Smalling (Injured)
Nemanja Vidic

Cover?: Michael Carrick, Scott Wootton, Michael Keane.
09/08/2012 10:40, Report by A Marshall, N Coppack

Sir Alex's central worry

Sir Alex Ferguson has some concern over the heart of his defence ahead of the Barclays Premier League opener at Everton.

Nemanja Vidic continued his welcome return from a long lay-off with a half against Barcelona in Gothenburg while Rio Ferdinand played most of the game. However, the manager feels Jonny Evans will lose his race to be fit in time for Goodison, Phil Jones has picked up an injury and Chris Smalling is out for some time following an operation.

It means midfielder Michael Carrick could emerge as emergency cover as he again filled in at the back during the goalless draw on Wednesday night.

"Evans is recovering from an operation," stated Sir Alex. "Smalling is out for three months. Jones got a muscle injury in his back and was sent home from Norway.

"So the area we're concerned about is centre-back. Evans won't be ready for the start of the season. He won't be far away but he won't be ready.

"Smalling is out and I can't give you an update with Jones because we've not fully diagnosed that. But Michael Carrick was absolutely brilliant [in Sweden] with his passing the ball and his interceptions. He was fantastic."

More: United lose on penalties | Boss perseveres with van Persie

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