United struggle to man their defence for Inter tie

Injuries, Sir Alex Ferguson is fond of saying, can contribute to football’s habit of “biting you on the backside” and an extraordinary sequence of defensive setbacks have lent Manchester United an air of vulnerability ahead of tomorrow night’s Champions League game in Milan.

Jonny Evans became the fifth defensive doubt for the encounter against Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale when a recurrence of an old ankle injury saw him limp off against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday evening and with John O’Shea, Gary Neville and Wes Brown also recovering from injuries and Nemanja Vidic suspended, United may conceivably have to turn to an inexperienced youngster or else convert a midfielder to a central defender.

Ferguson said: “I just hope we can get two centre-backs out for Tuesday because at this moment it’s very doubtful. Jon Evans is unlikely to be playing because when you look at him he’s very, very doubtful. I just hope we get John O’Shea available because we don’t have Vidic, we don’t have Gary Neville and we don’t have Wes Brown. We’re having a nightmare with defenders this season in terms of injuries and suspensions.”

The United manager’s best solution could be to patch up O’Shea, who sustained a heel injury against Fulham last week, and play him alongside Rio Ferdinand, though failing that he may choose to play Patrice Evra in central defence and deploy Fabio and Rafael da Silva in the left- and right-back roles respectively. He would certainly have preferred to use Neville’s experience, though he is struggling to overcome a virus. Brown’s metatarsal injury rules him out.

It is unclear whether Michael Carrick might be deployable as a centre back by virtue of his height. Evra, at 5ft 8ins lacks that and has been punished aerially in the past.