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Relief for United as Hernandez escapes with bruised shin

JAVIER HERNANDEZ has escaped a lengthy lay-off as a result of the Ashley Cole challenge described as "shocking" by Alex Ferguson.

The Manchester United forward is understood to have suffered a bruised shin, rather than ligament damage, during Sunday's victory against Chelsea.

Hernandez, who was able to walk off the pitch following the 77th-minute incident in United's 3-1 win, is expected to be out for two weeks and will miss tonight's Carling Cup tie at Leeds, as well as the forthcoming fixtures against Stoke City, Basle and Norwich City.

With the United manager determined to rotate his squad, Dimitar Berbatov is set to be handed his first start of the season against Simon Grayson's Championship outfit.

The Bulgarian, United's £30.75m record signing, has managed just 36 minutes of first-team action this season after being overlooked in favour of Hernandez and 20-year-old Danny Welbeck as Wayne Rooney's strike partner so far this campaign.

Having been left out of United's squad for the Champions League final defeat by Barcelona at Wembley in May, Berbatov's Old Trafford future had been a subject of doubt during the summer and the club have yet to decide whether to extend the 30-year-old's contract beyond its expiry date next June.

Ferguson has insisted that the former Tottenham striker will be given an opportunity to contribute this season, yet it appears as though the Carling Cup currently offers Berbatov his only likely route into the team.

Berbatov's languid and unhurried style of play jars with the free-flowing football being played by United this season, but Ferguson is expected to pair the striker with Federico Macheda and Michael Owen tonight.

With defender Chris Smalling ruled out for two weeks with a groin injury, Antonio Valencia is set to play at right-back, with Anders Lindegaard replacing the rested David de Gea in goal.

And Ferguson is ready to reward French midfielder Paul Pogba for a series of outstanding displays for the reserves with his first-team debut.

Pogba, an 18-year-old French midfielder of Guinean descent, was signed from Le Havre two years ago,and his blend of power and poise has prompted comparisons with Patrick Vieira.

Stockport-born twins Will and Michael Keane are also included in United's squad, their surname alone guaranteed to provoke the Yorkshire crowd's disdain.

Leeds manager Simon Grayson, who was at Old Trafford to watch the champions defeat Chelsea 3-1, must balance his desire to reach the fourth round against the need to preserve Leeds' competitive edge ahead of Friday's Championship match at Brighton.


"That game takes priority because it's our bread and butter, but there's no getting away from the fact that Manchester United is massive for the club and our supporters," he said.

Recalling the "fantastic day" when Jermaine Beckford hit the winner at United, Grayson warned this would be "a tougher test".

He added: "The all-round quality and strength in depth they have is probably the strongest it's been for some time. When you look at the players who haven't played much this season, it shows how strong they are.

"If it's a team that is totally different to the Chelsea game, it will still be one that would do well in the Premier League. People say it was their reserve team at Benfica, yet that side would be in the top six or seven of the Premier League.

"I think it hurt them when we won there. Alex doesn't like losing anything; football, racing or whatever. He'll send out a team determined to beat us." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent