Last man standing
Fergie in derby dilemma with Vidic only fit central defender
Nemanja Vidic is preparing for Manchester United's derby clash against Manchester City as Alex Ferguson's only fit centre-half after being omitted from Serbia's squad for tonight's friendly in Israel following an agreement between United and the Serbian Football Association.
With Rio Ferdinand understood to be losing his battle to be fit for Saturday's encounter with City after suffering a calf injury while warming up for the defeat at Wolves at the weekend, United also have concerns over Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans.
Evans, who stepped in for Ferdinand at Molineux, will miss Northern Ireland's Carling Nations Cup tie against Scotland in Dublin tonight after withdrawing from the squad with an ankle injury suffered in training on Tuesday.
And Smalling is targeting a return to training today after being pulled out of the England U-21 squad for yesterday's friendly against Italy in Empoli with a knock.
Ferguson's initial insistence on Saturday that Ferdinand would be out for two weeks with his calf injury had been softened with the England captain undergoing intensive treatment on the problem since Sunday.
But while the 32-year-old has responded to treatment, Saturday's game is viewed as being too soon for a return to action, leaving Ferguson facing a dilemma over who to select alongside Vidic.
Should Evans and Smalling fail to prove their fitness, the out-of-favour Wes Brown could be drafted in for his first Premier League appearance since the 2-2 draw at Aston Villa on November 13.
Although the Serbian FA contacted United last month to inform them that Vidic would be required for tonight's game in Tel Aviv, the United captain has missed the trip after national coach Vladimir Petrovic -- who has selected City defender Aleksandar Kolarov to face Israel -- accepted United's request for the 29-year-old to be rested ahead of the City game.
Darren Fletcher is expected to overcome injuries to his ankle and eye socket in time for Saturday's lunchtime kick-off, but United could be without Javier Hernandez due to the forward's anticipated late return from international duty with Mexico.
Hernandez is set to play for Mexico against Bosnia this evening in Atlanta in a fixture which kicks-off at 1.0am Irish time and Ferguson is not expecting him to return to Manchester until Friday morning, with the player flying back to England on a scheduled flight.
City forward Edin Dzeko has been excused from the Mexico fixture by national coach Safet Susic in order to help the £27m forward adjust to life at Eastlands following his January arrival from Wolfsburg.
But while Dzeko is likely to be named as a substitute at Old Trafford, Mario Balotelli is rated at no more than 50-50 to be fit for a place in Roberto Mancini's squad. The Italian has been sidelined since December with a knee injury and, after two and a half weeks of rehabilitation in the United States, is still to return to full training.
Balotelli is currently on a programme of intensive drills at City's Carrington training ground in an effort to put him in contention for Saturday, but the 20-year-old has yet to progress to ball work. (© Daily Telegraph, London)