Brown's injury could force Ferguson to buy

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The Independent Online

Manchester United and England were reeling last night from the news that Wes Brown has suffered major cruciate ligament damage for the second time.

Manchester United and England were reeling last night from the news that Wes Brown has suffered major cruciate ligament damage for the second time.

Brown was hurt in the final game of the Premiership season at Everton on Sunday but was unaware of the problem as he danced around with the Premiership trophy after the game. However checks yesterday revealed that he has a ruptured anterior ligament in his left knee, the opposite side to the one that kept him out for almost a year three seasons ago.

Brown will need surgery to repair the damage, with the only bonus being that part of his lay-off will be over the summer months. But United are likely to be without Brown until next year, giving his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, fresh problems in the transfer market. Brown's loss – plus the retirement of Laurent Blanc – will mean a probable move for a leading defender.

It is a personal setback for Brown, whose career has been blighted by injuries. His first cruciate problem came in a freak training ground injury.

Brown was also out for months this season with a cracked bone in his ankle, picked up in the opening European game in Hungary. Despite his injuries Brown's enormous potential made him first choice for United in their run-in and also had him as a key part of Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad.

"Wes will undergo surgery shortly and it will be into next season before he is fit," a club statement said.

There was further bad news for United and England when Nicky Butt was ruled out of any involvement in the club's summer tours with the announcement that a long-standing ankle injury must be rested.

"Nicky has had persistent problems with his right ankle," a club statement said. "Following discussions with the England medical staff it is in Nicky's best interests that he will have an injection into his ankle and he will be rested over the summer."

The 28-year-old midfielder should be available for the start of next season, which does provide Sir Alex with the option of dropping Roy Keane into central defence as a ready-made replacement for Brown.

David Bellion is expected to sign for United this summer even though no deal has yet been concluded.

The 20-year-old striker was pursued by Sir Alex without success during the January transfer window, much to the annoyance of the Sunderland chairman, Bob Murray, who accused United of trying to land their player on the cheap.

Bellion has played once for the Wearsiders since February and did not get a chance to impress the new manager, Mick McCarthy, after falling victim to an ankle injury. With his contract due to expire on 30 June and Sunderland now doomed to life in the Nationwide League, McCarthy has already accepted that the former Cannes forward will leave.

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