Brown's World Cup hopes hit by injury

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The Independent Online

Wes Brown has been struck down by injury again, disrupting Manchester United's plans and putting his World Cup hopes in doubt. The 22-year-old defender has been sent for scans on his knee after pulling up in pain during a training session, sparking fears that he will miss the rest of the season with ligament trouble.

Brown suffered cruciate ligament damage in his right knee two years ago. This time it is his other leg. He had been in pain for the past few days, but the crunch came in the build-up for tonight's Champions' League home game against Boavista. Brown was taken for X-rays and it is feared that he could be out for six months.

He has played centre-half and right-back in United's porous defence this season, but he will be missed as Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, is low on alternatives. His absence could mean United's captain, Roy Keane, staying at centre-half.

With the long-serving David May also injured, Ferguson needs to sign a defender or two soon. Unfortunately, their leading target, Milan's Argentinian Fabricio Coloccini, is now being chased by Real Madrid. Sources in Spain claim Coloccini's advisers met with Real at the start of the week after news of United's interest reached them.

The former United winger Jesper Blomqvist broke down after 45 minutes of his comeback with Everton reserves. The Swede, who had hoped to impress the Goodison manager, Walter Smith, pulled up, holding his calves after one strong run.

England's opening game in the World Cup finals, against Sweden, has been put back four hours and will now kick off at 10.30am BST. Their other group games will kick-off as planned – against Argentina at 12.30pm on 7 June and against Nigeria five days later at 7.30am.

The Republic of Ireland will play Nigeria in Dublin on 17 May, 24 hours before Mick McCarthy's squad are expected to fly to the Far East for the finals. A proposed meeting with another team in Group F, Argentina, has fallen through. Ireland wanted to play them in April, but the South American champions are believed to have put them off with a huge financial demand. Instead, Scotland could step in as the Argentinian FA see them as a similar side to England.

The Republic will be based at Izumo City, close to Hiroshima, some 400 miles south-west of Tokyo before they play Cameroon and will play a local club side there on 25 May. After meeting Cameroon in Niigata, will move closer to the capital for the remaining games.

West Ham's coach, Glenn Roeder, is planning to sign the experienced Spanish centre-half Luis Ramis. The former Deportivo La Coruña defender, 31, is a free agent at Racing Santander and has been training with the Hammers.

The Barnsley manager, Steve Parkin, wants his former coach David Hamilton to resign as Rochdale's stand-in manager and join his backroom team. Andy Ritchie and John Hollins have been in discussions with Rochdale and a new full-time appointment is imminent.

Valencia's Argentina international, Kily Gonzalez, will miss the Uefa Cup tie against Celtic tomorrow after injuring his thigh in training. The winger, joins the midfielders David Abelda and Miguel Angel Angulo on the treatment table ahead of the third-round, second leg. Valencia won the first leg 1-0.

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