Alex Ferguson admits to 'tough week' with Manchester United

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson admits he has "not had an easy week" as he faces up to Manchester United's FA Cup quarter-final with Arsenal at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Although Arsene Wenger has been centre stage following the row over Robin van Persie's red card in Barcelona and the subsequent decision by UEFA to charge the Gunners boss with improper conduct, it only mirrors the difficulties Ferguson encountered with his observations about Martin Atkinson following last week's Premier League defeat at Chelsea.

Ferguson must answer to the Football Association about that but then, by imposing a media blackout around the weekend encounter with Liverpool, when United were badly beaten, the Scot has had to endure more negative publicity about his own club.

Little wonder, when asked whether he had any sympathy for Wenger at United's Carrington training complex this morning, Ferguson turned the question back on himself.

"I have sympathy for myself. I didn't have an easy week myself," he said.

Under the circumstances, Ferguson probably took a wise course of action in avoiding discussion of any controversy further, preferring instead to look ahead at what is to come.

"You have to look forward," he said.

"We have big opportunities at the club and there are a lot of challenges ahead for the rest of the season.

"It is terrific to be involved in the middle of March. Every game you play is of importance.

"We have Tuesday's game against Marseille and Bolton in a league game next weekend. It goes on and on.

"That is why you get to March and hope you are involved in all these things. We are."

Ferguson's present problem is that too many senior players are not involved.

United could be without 10 members of their first-team squad for tomorrow's Old Trafford clash.

The latest absentee is Nani, who was on the wrong end of a vicious challenge by Jamie Carragher at Liverpool that left him with a deep gash to his leg and led to a public apology from the former England defender.

Nani has already been ruled out of tomorrow's clash, although given the manner of his treatment, Ferguson is confident the winger will be fit to return immediately after the international break.

"We have managed to stitch it, which is great news," he said.

"What we are guarding against is infection but the swelling has gone down a great deal.

"It is very difficult to say when he will be back but we do have a two-week break after next Saturday. He will be ready for the return of that, that's for sure."

Ferguson also confirmed neither Rio Ferdinand nor Park Ji-sung, whose recovery from calf and hamstring injuries respectively is taking longer than anticipated, are set for a comeback this weekend.

Antonio Valencia's return is also on hold, although the Ecuador star did feature in a closed-doors game earlier this week and Ferguson does not feel it will be long before he is plunged back into the fray.

"Antonio is difficult to assess because he has been out for such a long time," said Ferguson.

"He has been training very well and is taking part in a few practice matches between the players.

"It is deciding when we can put him into the cut and thrust of a game. There is a question mark over the timing but at some point, we are going to have to try it.

"It won't be tomorrow. Hopefully it will be quite soon."