Nani tackle 'a disgrace' - Fergie
ALEX Ferguson has described as "disgraceful" the challenge on Nani by Liverpool's Jamie Carragher which has left the Manchester United winger sidelined for today's FA Cup meeting with Arsenal and facing daily monitoring of the deep wound on his left shin.
Ferguson, who spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since being charged with improper conduct by the FA for comments about referee Martin Atkinson more than a week ago, admitted that Nani was unlikely to return until early next month as a result of the injury sustained during the 3-1 defeat at Anfield last Sunday.
Carragher was only booked for the challenge by referee Phil Dowd, but post-match attempts by the defender to apologise to Nani resulted in him being sent away from the United dressing-room.
Nani's absence against Arsenal will add to an injury crisis that leaves United without eight first-team players as they try to avert a third consecutive defeat. Ferguson admits that the extent of the injury suffered by the Portuguese highlights the ferocity of Carragher's challenge.
"Obviously it was a disgraceful tackle, we know that, but you just move on," Ferguson said. "The wound was too wide (to stitch). We sent him to hospital to see what they could do, and our own doctor and the surgeon there managed to get it stitched up, which was fantastic, the best news we could have got. The alternative would have been to wait and just let it heal.
"The problem with that is infection and we're still worried about infection. He has to have it examined every day and make sure there's no moisture in it, that it dries up quickly. If it dries up quickly, we've got a better chance.
"To give you a date when he's coming back is very difficult to say. On the plus side we have a two-week international break after next Saturday, but whether we can get him for the Bolton match (March 19) is difficult to say."
With Nani unavailable and Antonio Valencia still short of fitness after a five-month lay-off with an ankle injury, Ferguson is set to restore Gabriel Obertan to the team as United aim to avoid a third straight defeat for the first time in nine years.
Arsenal's midweek Champions League elimination against Barcelona, combined with Arsene Wenger's anger at Uefa and match referee Massimo Busacca, ensure that the Londoners arrive at Old Trafford harbouring a similar siege mentality to United, but Ferguson has little sympathy for Arsenal's problems.
"I had sympathy for myself," Ferguson said. "I didn't have an easy week myself! Dearie me. We've got to look forward. There are big opportunities at the club and a lot of challenges ahead for the rest of the season.
"It's terrific to be involved in March because every game you play is of importance." Successive defeats against Chelsea and Liverpool, following an uninspiring first-leg 0-0 draw against Marseille in the Champions League, have left United facing another test of their credentials today.
"I'm not getting into that (recent defeats)," Ferguson said. "That's in the past. I'm more interested in tomorrow. We have that experience to recover. It's happened a few times. You never go through a period of the season where everything is rosy. When you get the bad moments, you have to recover from it. It's another day in the history of Manchester United."
Recent encounters between United and Arsenal, Ferguson and Wenger, have embellished the history of both clubs. Relations between all parties have ranged between strained and spiky, but Ferguson concedes that Arsenal rarely stray off United's radar for long.
"United and Arsenal games, since I've been down here, have always been competitive and always meant something," he said. "Arsenal have always been there as our main challengers and I think they're certainly closer to winning the league this season.
"That indicates an improvement in their team, but they've always had good sides. Their history demands that. We're the same. We have to have competitive, successful teams. That's what big clubs have to do.
"It's a quarter-final of the FA Cup. We expect a difficult game and so will they. There's no question about that. We will do our best to get to that semi-final as the FA Cup is the FA Cup."
Wenger shrugged when mention was made of his relationship with Ferguson, of whether it was frosty or friendly.
"My worry is not my relationship with Ferguson, it is to get positive vibes back into the team and this can put us in the semi-final of the cup. We are two teams with disappointing results recently and it is about who deals best with that."
Wenger's attacking midfielder, Samir Nasri, articulated the belief that United were traditionally cautious against Arsenal, overloading midfield to try to disrupt Arsenal's passing moves. "They always play against us with three tight in midfield and try to put pressure on us in midfield," agreed Wenger.
"They always set up against us to defend well. They're still a dangerous side. They lost Ronaldo but Nani has made very good progress this year. I wouldn't say they're scared." Arsenal themselves must fight off such an accusation today. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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