Ferguson expects more up front but lacks in defence

Van Persie set to start on bench for debut as Ferdinand injury leaves United thin at the back

Friday's capture of Robin van Persie caught the imagination, but Sir Alex Ferguson has a huge defensive headache ahead of Manchester United's opening game of the season at Everton tonight. Rio Ferdinand has picked up a groin injury in training ahead of the trip to Goodison Park and could miss up to a month as he awaits news from a scan.

Add Ferdinand, to the other absentees – Phil Jones and Chris Smalling – and it leaves United with Nemanja Vidic as their only fully fit central defender. Jonny Evans is back in training but Ferguson admitted that the curtain-raiser comes too soon for the Northern Irishman. That could mean that Michael Carrick is asked to partner Vidic in the heart of defence.

It isn't the ideal start to a season in which Ferguson has placed so much emphasis on the other end of the pitch, having lost the title race on goal difference last year. "No matter the years of experience we have of going for titles, last year was a different type of year. It's the first time anyone has beaten us on goal difference," Ferguson said. "That's what cost us the league and it won't happen again. Trust me on that." Van Persie is in the squad, but is likely to start on the bench, given his lack of match sharpness after an interrupted pre-season.

United have seemingly ended interest in Leighton Baines after Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem revealed last night that they had sold 23-year-old left-back Alexander Buttner to Old Trafford, while the money received by Everton from the sale of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City means they are able to add quality themselves. That comes in the shape of Olympiakos' Kevin Mirallas, who yesterday signed for £6m on a four-year deal. "I know this is a great club with great supporters and a club that has the ability win a lot of games in the Premier League. That's why I came," the winger said. "After talking with the manager I decided coming to Everton was the best opportunity for me." It represents a decent summer of business for Moyes, who managed to get good money for Rodwell – a midfielder besieged by injury – and kept hold of his better players.

For United, defensive issues aside, there are plenty of options available in midfield and attack. Ferguson spoke of the "progression" that Danny Welbeck continues to make, and how he can improve alongside Van Persie and Wayne Rooney. There is an urgency about their need to find the net regularly from the word go. Ryan Giggs is pleased with the new signing. "The players are just like the fans in terms of talking about who we might sign and wondering which players might come in," he said. "[Van Persie] brought that lift to training that a top player brings and that all bodes well."

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there