MANCHESTER UNITED are facing another major injury crisis after Nemanja Vidic was consigned to the sidelines for another eight weeks, while winger Antonio Valencia left training on crutches.
After complaining of tightness in his knee ahead of Sunday's win over Liverpool, Alex Ferguson (below) pulled the Serbian out of the 2-1 win as a precaution. But further investigations revealed Vidic required further surgery on the knee he ruptured his cruciate ligaments in last December.
United's initial diagnosis is that Vidic will be out for eight weeks, meaning he will miss seven Premier League games, plus his club's next three matches in the Champions League. And, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling also out, Ferguson is now down to his last two fit senior central defenders, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand. "Nemanja Vidic has had a meniscus operation on his right knee and will be out for around eight weeks," said a club spokesman.
"Sir Alex, as a precautionary measure, rested Vidic at the weekend, after he complained of tightness in his knee, however, further medical investigation revealed the underlying problem. The central defender was operated on this week and will be sidelined for about eight weeks."
As Evans was not moving that freely when he left Anfield on Sunday, United's fear would be having to use Michael Carrick as an emergency defender, which he has already done twice this season.
Carrick's shortcomings were exposed by Marouane Fellaini at Everton on the opening weekend and it is hard to see United maintaining a Premier League title challenge if Ferguson cannot get two orthodox central defenders on the pitch for an extended period of time. Jones is not due to return for another six weeks after suffering the same problem as Vidic, whilst Smalling is yet to resume training after a broken metatarsal.
Valencia's right foot is in a protective boot while United's medical staff continue to assess the injury he suffered in Sunday's victory at Liverpool.
More immediately, Ferguson needs to select a team for tonight's League Cup clash with Newcastle at Old Trafford, with inexperienced duo Michael Keane and Scott Wooton in line to play. Nineteen-year-old Keane has made one substitute appearance for the senior side, whilst Wooton, who went on the summer tour to South Africa and China, is yet to make his debut.