Football: United wait on Giggs injury

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED could pay a hefty price for their FA Cup victory over Arsenal on Wednesday night.

Top of the list of walking wounded are Ryan Giggs and Peter Schmeichel. Giggs, who suffered an ankle strain in a challenge with Lee Dixon near the end of the gripping encounter, left Villa Park on crutches, although he should be fit for next Wednesday's European ' Cup semi-final second leg against Juventus in Turin.

Schmeichel, who made a series of fine saves including a penalty save from Dennis Bergkamp, suffered a groin injury and had to play on because United had used up their three substitutes. The Dane is likely to sit out tomorrow's game against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford in the hope of being fit to face Juventus.

To add to Ferguson's worries, Jesper Blomqvist came off complaining of a foot problem, while Phil Neville may well be pressed into action on the left wing against Wednesday tomorrow.

Henning Berg is already out with ankle ligament trouble and United will also have to do without their captain Roy Keane against Aston Villa on 1 May after he picked up a one-match ban for his sending off on Wednesday night.

Keane is firm in his belief that United's squad will be large enough to cope.

"We've used the squad a lot this season, but you really saw it's worth against Arsenal," he said. "After extra-time on Sunday and with the other games coming up, the gaffer brought other players in and they've done brilliantly. That bit of freshness helps and there are still people who can come in." On the plus side, Andy Cole will return from the ankle injury which left him on the sidelines against Arsenal. Denis Irwin, who was confined to the bench on Wednesday with his knee problem, is likely to play, while Dwight Yorke is still fresh.

Ferguson will take a head count of who is available this morning, and he said yesterday: "The semi-final was about getting through no matter what because of the importance of the game. I'll now have to do a lot of thinking about my team for Saturday."

Although United's win over Arsenal was their first in two years, Keane does not think the result will have any bearing on the Premiership title race.

"I'm not into all that type of thing just because we've won this game," he said. "We have an important game on Saturday and that's all I'm thinking about. I can't answer that question until the end of the season as to whether there's any psychological advantage or not.

"But I really don't think so - we won this game and forget everything else. It's got us through to the FA Cup final and that's all."

The Football League is set to follow rugby union's example and experiment with the 10-yard rule for offences in next year's Auto Windscreens Shield.

After a successful trial in Jersey, match officials will be instructed to advance a free-kick by 10 yards if a player continues to show dissent, fails to retreat 10 yards, or delays the kick. The League is planning to use the new rule in next year's knock-out competition for Second and Third Division clubs.

The former World Cup referee, Pat Partridge, believes the new law could be a valuable weapon for match officials in the face of growing dissent problems on the pitch.

"Apparently, from the way the experiment has gone in Jersey, it has done tremendously well," Partridge said. "It is a positive move by the League if they go ahead with it.

"People say it is only Jersey but it had to be tested in competition. It has proved successful so let's give it a whirl."

Partridge said the new rule should have been a feature of the elite game when he was officiating.

"It is something which would have been ideal in my day as a referee," Partridge added. "It would save a lot of problems in this day and age. It is a system which has worked in rugby successfully."

It was announced yesterday that no tickets will be sold on the day for this year's Auto Windscreens Shield final, between Wigan and Millwall on Sunday.