England's worst fears about the Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck were eased last night when it emerged that he had badly bruised a leg, but not broken it, in the potentially pivotal derby defeat to Manchester City.
United face an anxious wait to see if Welbeck might be fit to play again for them again in the domestic campaign and they certainly require an abundance of goals because of City's superior goal difference. It may be a battle for the 21-year-old to partner Wayne Rooney again in domestic action. Early indications had pointed to a possible hairline fracture of the leg, sustained in a challenge with City's Nigel de Jong which caused a touchline altercation between the United and City managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini, during Monday's game. But scans later revealed only bruising, which would appear to make Welbeck a contender for Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad.
United's defeat at the Etihad Stadium showed up again their need for a midfield renewal, as Yaya Touré won that battle. Reports have surfaced that the young French midfielder Paul Pogba, who is arguably Ferguson's most prodigious talent, had opted to reject a new contract at Old Trafford and sign for Juventus. But there were grounds for some optimism last night when the player's agent, Mino Raiola, said that a deal with United was possible. "I'm in Brazil this week. I'm back next week and I will handle it next week. I don't know [which way it will go between United and Juventus]. It could be United," Raiola told The Independent. "I will know next week. I think the boy has a very difficult decision to make."
The agent's tone was certainly far more positive about Ferguson than when this newspaper last spoke to him on the subject of Pogba three weeks ago. "I think Paul's very positive about Ferguson," Raiola said. "Listen, it's a very difficult decision. He will make it next week."
David Silva has said City had begun to lose some hope of catching United at the top. "We were in front, then they were in front and now we are tying with Manchester United and playing to win the title
"There was never a point when we totally gave up on the league but we did get to a point when we knew it was very difficult. All we could do was keep working and get three points after three points and now we are here we have to finish the job.
"It's very important that we finish the job now. Win the two matches and win the title. I am surprised to see United taking an eight-point lead and then giving that up but don't forget that we had a massive lead and we lost it. It's a very competitive season, a very long season.
"This is an important moment for us psychologically because we knew we had to win this game. We did that and now we have to continue concentrating on the job. It does give us the confidence we need for the last two games. The Newcastle game is like a final for us now. We have to win it."