Carrick blow as United left to thirst for midfield water carrier

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The Independent Football

Manchester United have been forced into a midfield reshuffle for their next four games including the Champions League visit to Dynamo Kiev on 23 October after Michael Carrick joined fellow England international Owen Hargreaves on the injured list.

Carrick was today ruled out for up to six weeks with a fractured right elbow suffered during the latter stages of his side's Champions League victory over Roma at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Although he appeared fine straight after the game, X-rays have revealed the full extent of the problem, leaving Sir Alex Ferguson facing a selection headache for tomorrow's encounter with Wigan.

Ferguson confirmed that Hargreaves had received an injection to counter a growing problem of tendinitis in his knee, meaning the former Bayern Munich man will be missing for the next four weeks.

It means that during the next month only Paul Scholes will be available as a recognised central midfielder as Darren Fletcher is also sidelined by a knee injury.

Given the period includes a two-week international break and a free midweek due to United's Carling Cup exit, the damage is not as serious as it might have been. While Carrick will probably not see action until the trip to Bolton on 24 November, Hargreaves may return for the trip to Arsenal three weeks earlier.

The Brazilian new boy Anderson is capable of playing in central midfield but a more likely alternative would be John O'Shea, who himself has only just recovered from a knee injury.

The Irishman starred at right-back against Roma this week but Wes Brown is not due to be sidelined for long, Gary Neville is about to begin his comeback from long-standing injury and Ferguson could also turn to prospect Danny Simpson.

All three could fill the full-back berth with O'Shea stepping into midfield. For Carrick, it means he will be unable to put any pressure on Aston Villa's Gareth Barry for the England midfield spot alongside Steven Gerrard. Not only will the former Spurs player miss this month's double header with Estonia and Russia, he is almost certainly out of the friendly in Austria on 16 November and the final Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia five days later.