Manchester United have suffered a triple injury blow with defenders Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Rafael da Silva set for spells on the sidelines.
Ferdinand will be out for six weeks after being substituted with a hamstring injury during Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League win over West Brom. Vidic, who like Ferdinand was replaced during the game, is set to miss the next fortnight with a calf injury.
Rafael faces about 10 weeks out with a dislocated shoulder. He appeared as a substitute in the 3-2 Community Shield win over Manchester City but sustained the injury in training.
Ferdinand’s problem means he will be sidelined until the start of October and will miss England’s upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales. At club level, he will be out for United’s next five games, which see them host Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea and travel to face Bolton and Stoke. Rafael, meanwhile, looks likely to miss additional matches against Liverpool and Norwich as well as the derby against Manchester City.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admits the injuries are worrisome.
“We’ve had a torrid time with injuries,” Ferguson said. “Young Rafa has done his shoulder in training and will be out for 10 weeks. He’s probably going to have an operation.
“Rio will be out for six weeks. Vidic will have checks, we don’t know if it’s just a nerve or something, but he could be out for a couple of weeks.”
The injuries will lead to an inevitable reshuffle at the back. Patrice Evra, who missed Sunday’s match, will come back in at left-back with Fabio likely to switch to the opposite flank and then two from Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans playing in central defence.
Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon believes the loss of Ferdinand and Vidic will put more pressure on 20 year-old goalkeeper David de Gea, who was at fault for the West Brom goal in the first half.
Shane Long equalised with a tame effort that beat the Spaniard after United had gone ahead through Wayne Rooney early in the match.
“With such a young goalkeeper you would want two experienced centre-backs in front of him to talk him through and that is obviously going to be a problem for the next few weeks,” Dixon said. “But the way Sir Alex is building his squad, he seems to be going for youth and sometimes you will get mistakes.”