Ajax 0 Manchester Utd 1: Injury to new signing proves a high price to pay

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The Independent Football

Michael Carrick hobbled out of the Amsterdam ArenA on crutches as Manchester United's Premiership plans were thrown into disarray. Bringing the trophy home from the four-team tournament was little consolation for Sir Alex Ferguson.

On only his second appearance since completing an £18.6million move from Tottenham, Carrick lasted just 14 minutes before being helped off after sustaining what seemed to be a serious injury to his left ankle that could keep him out of the start of the season.

Ferguson said after the match: "It looks like he'll be out for a few weeks ­ there's a lot of swelling and bleeding. It's a ligament to the front of the foot."

Carrick's injury is a severe setback to him and United, who are already awaiting a verdict on the dismissals of Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes in their match against Porto. Bans could follow as the referee, Ruud Bossen, has reported both red cards to the Dutch FA. Their English counterparts expect to be formally notified of the decisions tomorrow, triggering an automatic charge of violent conduct against both.

The real bonus from last night's match for United was the confidence shown by the young players that they were forced to bring in to cover for a string of injuries. Jonny Evans was flown in for the game and the 18-year-old defender, as well as the striker Giuseppe Rossi, performed impressively.

Ferguson probably wishes he had not tempted fate by expressing his hope for an injury-free start to the new campaign. Instead of his wish being granted, he must patch up his squad the best he can, the need for more new signings over the next fortnight now more urgent.

In the overall scheme of things, United's triumph in the four-team tournament was of little consequence, although at least it brought a smile back to Ferguson's face.

The United manager was still in the process of berating the fourth official over the double standards of Johnny Heitinga only being booked for chopping down Rossi when Ryan Giggs' free-kick from just outside the penalty area was ruled to have crossed the line by a referee's assistant who was up the touchline watching for potential offside decisions.

The free-kick, 14 minutes from time, flew over the defensive wall, dipped and hit the crossbar, bouncing down near the goal-line.

Giggs had already gone close from similar situations on two occasions, although Ajax had chances to win it as well, with Heitinga having a first-half header ruled out for offside and Edwin van der Sar superbly turning away Klaas Jan Huntelaar's penalty.