Sir Alex Ferguson last night admitted that he faced gambling with Manchester United's hopes of retaining the Premier League in an attempt to keep alive his side's faltering Europa League campaign.
The United manager, whose side fell to their second successive Europa league defeat in the 3-2 home loss to Athletic Bilbao, again cited a lack of defensive experience and suggested he is considering resting Rio Ferdinand from Sunday's match with West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford – to have him fresh for next Thursday's last-16 return. "He is such a great player and his experience away from home it's a possibility [that I'll rest him for West Brom]," said Ferguson, who insisted the tie as still alive for his club. "I think I will gamble a couple on Sunday for Thursday's game."
Ferguson lost Chris Smalling, whose stitches from a deep wound sustained playing for England came undone, leaving him a doubt for the weekend. He admitted that his side, who lost at home to Ajax last month, had again been made to look second best in Europe's junior competition. "Our defending wasn't very good tonight," he said. "No doubt they were the better team very aggressive in terms of their attacking and pressing the ball."
Meanwhile, the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, fears that Vincent Kompany will miss the next two weeks of the season at least with a calf injury. Mancini saw his captain limp off after just eight minutes of one of his side's most lacklustre displays of the season as they lost 1-0 at Sporting Lisbon on a disastrous night for the Premier League's top two sides.
Kompany will certainly miss Sunday's game at Swansea and a potentially vital home game with Chelsea. Joleon Lescott also suffered a groin injury and may also be doubtful. Mancini chose not to risk his main right-back, Micah Richards, last night while another, Pablo Zabaleta, is sidelined with a hamstring injury. "A calf injury is a serious thing," said Mancini of Kompany. "It could be a big problem but we hope it could also be 10 days maximum. But we have three good central defenders and I hope we can cope without this player."