Giggs to be out for six weeks as United enter crucial period

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The Independent Football

Although there has been no public confirmation from the Old Trafford camp over the timescale for Giggs' recovery, Sir Alex Ferguson is not expecting him back for six weeks at the earliest.

It would rule the 31-year-old out of a crucial period of the campaign, with the vital encounter with the Premiership leaders, Chelsea, on 6 November among the six League games Giggs would miss, plus the remainder of United's Champions' League group phase campaign.

Giggs' injury, which will prevent him from attending his induction at the football Hall of Fame at the Lowry Centre this evening, is the latest blow to Ferguson, who has seen his squad torn apart this season.

Earlier this week, Ferguson admitted that neither his captain, Roy Keane, nor Quinton Fortune were anywhere near recovering from a broken foot and knee injury respectively.

Gabriel Heinze is unlikely to be fit until the latter stages of the season after rupturing his cruciate knee ligaments against Villarreal last month, while Gary Neville is two weeks away from a return after he damaged a groin in the European qualifying tie against Debrecen in August.

Kieran Richardson and Louis Saha are also absent, while Wes Brown is pencilled in for a Carling Cup comeback against Barnet on Wednesday.

With so many players unfit, it is little wonder United have fallen 10 points behind Chelsea at such an early stage of the campaign.

Ferguson will have just 13 senior players available for Saturday's encounter with second-placed Tottenham. Two of those are goalkeepers, so Cristiano Ronaldo's services will be required even though he spent yesterday afternoon being questioned by police over rape allegations he denies.

Despite the injuries, United must win since, as Darren Fletcher pointed out, United's margin for error in the title race is non-existent. "We have to keep our Premier League form going and, as the manager says, keep in Chelsea's slipstream," said the Scot.

"It has been Arsenal v United over the years and Chelsea have brought something different. They have a lot of money and a lot of power in the team. They defend first, then hit teams on the break. Fair play to them, they have been doing very well - but we are going to try and catch them."

Fletcher insisted there is no truth in reports that Ferguson wants his players to concentrate on winning the Champions' League rather than the domestic title. "He never said that," he said. "The manager has said we will battle on both fronts. He in no way said we are out of the Premiership.

"It is a long season and we have to beat Chelsea. If we can't do that, we can't expect other teams to beat them. That's what we'll be looking to do when we play them and hopefully that will start a bit of a rut for them."