Manchester United fans got used to seeing the Neville brothers taking to the turf in the same team but on Saturday they may witness a new brotherly duo wearing red. With injury problems afflicting most of United's defenders, Sir Alex Ferguson may be forced into giving Fabio da Silva, Rafael's twin brother, his debut at full-back for the visit to Bolton Wanderers.
Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Wes Brown are definitely missing from a defence that has now kept a club-record nine successive clean sheets in the top flight and Jonny Evans may join the absentee list at the Reebok Stadium after limping through United's 1-0 victory over Wigan Athletic on Wednesday night.
If Evans is ruled out, Ferguson would be forced to move either Gary Neville or John O'Shea, who filled the full-back slots against Wigan, alongside Nemanja Vidic in central defence. Fabio, who played in a closed-doors friendly with Bradford earlier this week, would probably be the man brought into left back.
If the 18-year-old Brazilian takes to life in the Premier League as comfortably as his twin, who has had an impressive debut season, United will be confident of adding a 10th clean sheet and securing the three points which would take them to the top of the table.
Ferguson also has problems in attack because Wayne Rooney has been ruled out for at least three weeks with a hamstring injury and Carlos Tevez's fitness is also a concern. Rooney's likely absence includes the FA Cup fourth-round tie with Tottenham, plus Premier League meetings with West Bromwich Albion and Everton, in addition to the Bolton trip and next Tuesday's Carling Cup semi-final against Derby County.
Rooney's spell on the sidelines is compounded by the knowledge that his most likely replacement, Tevez, spent most of Wednesday night's win at Old Trafford limping after being caught by a thunderous Titus Bramble tackle.
Having waited so long for a decent run in the side, Tevez would be cursing his luck if he was unable to make the most of Rooney's misfortune – although at least Ferguson would be able to rely on Cristiano Ronaldo's abilities as an orthodox striker alongside Dimitar Berbatov if he was without two of his leading men this weekend.
Red Tide: Late-season surges
Four of United's last five title wins
2007-08 (1 January – 1 April)
MAN UNITED - Played 12; Points 31
Arsenal - Played 12; Points 23
MAN UNITED - Played 11; Points 29
Arsenal - Played 10; Points 23
MAN UNITED - Played 10; Points 23
Arsenal - Played 10; Points 18
MAN UNITED - Played 11; Points 24
Leeds - Played 10; Points 16Reuse content