Wes Brown refuses to get downhearted at the way his injury problems returned just as he was starting to fulfil his potential.
Sir Alex Ferguson has always viewed Brown as one of the most natural defenders he has worked with at Manchester United. Yet, on too many occasions, the 29-year-old's progress has been halted. Cruciate operations on both knees, a broken ankle and a host of muscular problems have kept Brown on the sidelines for extended periods.
It seemed those problems were at an end though when Brown stepped into Gary Neville's right-back role and became an integral member of the United side that swept to a Premier League and Champions League double in 2008.
At that stage, with a place in Fabio Capello's England team for the first four games of their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, including the famous triumph over Croatia in Zagreb, also secured, the future looked bright for Brown.
Instead, after irritating Ferguson by dragging his heels over contract negotiations and then getting criticised for an own goal he scored at Liverpool, Brown's career was put on hold again by an ankle injury that ultimately kept him out for all but three games of the remainder of last season.
Brown's hopes of hitting the ground running this term were wrecked by a thigh problem suffered during a pre-season game in Munich, condemning him to spend the start of the season warming the bench.
Although the defender has made three appearances, his only starts came against Burnley and Arsenal last month and he did not even make the bench for Sunday's amazing derby win over City at Old Trafford. So once more, Brown has a sense of making up for lost time when he features in tonight's Carling Cup tie with Wolves.
"It was frustrating not to be able to build on where I was at the end of 2008," he said. "Getting injured for most of last season was not very pleasant but I am used to it I suppose. There is no point thinking, 'Why me?' I just get on with it and try to be confident. I am fit at the moment. That is the main thing."
In Brown's absence, a number of challengers for the right-back role have emerged, quite apart from Neville's own return to fitness. Rafael da Silva showed himself a player of immense promise and then, when the latter stages of the campaign demanded more experience, John O'Shea filled the void so effectively he was one of the first names on Ferguson's team sheet for last season's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.
"That is football," Brown said. "I have been out and the lads who came in did tremendously well. The squad is very big now and everyone is fighting for positions. That is the way the gaffer likes it. It is healthy and good for the club. I just have to try and play well again."
Brown will not be the only United player eager to make an impression against Mick McCarthy's side. Ben Foster's disappointing performance in goal against City seems to have opened the door to Tomasz Kuszczak while Edwin van der Sar completes the final stages of his recovery from a broken finger. The Pole must be aware an impressive display might allow him to keep his place for Saturday's Premier League trip to Stoke.
Republic of Ireland international Darron Gibson gets another chance to build on a blossoming reputation in midfield, while Michael Owen is likely to start for only the second time this season after his match-winning exploits at the weekend.Reuse content