Carrick and Cole injuries spell early grief for McClaren

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The Independent Football

The Steve McClaren era will gather further momentum this Friday when the new England manager announces his first international squad, his back-room staff and the man appointed to succeed David Beckham as captain at a lavish ceremony in London. His hope of bringing a fresh look to England's malfunctioning midfield in Manchester next Wednesday, however, may prove more problematic after a weekend of pre-season injuries ruled both Michael Carrick and Joe Cole out of McClaren's debut game with Greece.

Though only on the periphery of the international scene under Sven Goran Eriksson, Carrick was in contention for a starting role against the European champions only to damage ankle ligaments in his second appearance for Manchester United on Saturday night. The 25-year-old faces three weeks on the sidelines, an absence that will force him to miss United's first three games of the new Premiership season and reduce McClaren's options as he seeks to find the right balance alongside Steven Gerrard at Old Trafford.

At roughly the same time as Carrick hobbled away from the Amsterdam ArenA on crutches following United's victory over Ajax, his former West Ham team-mate Cole suffered what Chelsea fear could prove a serious knee injury in the champions' 1-0 defeat by the MLS All-Stars in Chicago. The England midfielder was only five minutes into a second-half substitute appearance at Toyota Park when he left the field clutching his right knee and, though he has not been officially ruled out of the Greece friendly, that is expected following a visit to a specialist in London today.

"Joe Cole is injured but I am not a doctor and I don't want to speak about it," said a concerned Jose Mourinho before Chelsea set off for England. "I think it's something to do with his knee ligaments. We will have to wait until we go back to London but he looks really injured."

The loss of Cole and Carrick at a time when England's midfield is in urgent need of reconstruction provides McClaren with a rude awakening to the difficulties of international management, although it does promote the prospect of Newcastle's Scott Parker earning a recall. The former Middlesbrough manager is also receptive to the idea of Paul Scholes ending his self-imposed England exile, but such a step is not anticipated from Scholes who has only recently returned to competitive action with Manchester United having missed much of last season with a serious eye problem.

Scholes - plus of course Wayne Rooney - is under threat of suspension for the start of the season following his dismissal for a dangerous challenge on Porto's Quaresma in the opening game of the Amsterdam Tournament on Friday.

Rooney was dismissed for the fourth time in his career for catching the Porto defender Pepe with a raised forearm and could be suspended for three matches, but is unlikely to face disciplinary action as senior officials at the Football Association believe the 42nd-minute red card was unwarranted and they are anxious to avoid an unnecessary confrontation with United at the start of McClaren's reign.

Rooney is banned for the first two Euro 2008 qualifiers as a consequence of his World Cup dismissal against Portugal, but he is available for next week's international and will continue his pre-season work with an appearance in United's friendly at Oxford United tomorrow. Mikaël Silvestre, Louis Saha and Gabriel Heinze will also play for the first time since the World Cup finals and so, possibly, could Cristiano Ronaldo.

The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, enjoyed and endured the weekend trip to the Netherlands in equal measure as his young side won the Amsterdam Tournament from Internazionale, Porto and Ajax, only for the disciplinary lapses and Carrick's injury set-back to overshadow results on the pitch. United beat Ajax 1-0 in their second game of the competition courtesy of a free-kick from Ryan Giggs.

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