Manchester United manager David Moyes has been dealt a serious blow in his attempts to turn around his fortunes at Old Trafford after he revealed star striker Robin van Persie has been ruled out of action for a month.
Moyes confirmed that the Dutchman suffered a thigh injury in the build-up to the match-winning goal scored by Phil Jones during United’s 1-0 Champions League victory against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night.
Van Persie took the corner which saw Jones rifle a shot past goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, and ease fears among the expectant home crowd they could slip-up for the third game in a row at Old Trafford – something that hasn’t happened since 1962.
The 30-year-old had only come off the bench four minutes before the 67th minute goal, and he was able to finish the match despite suffering the injury when he took the corner that led to the goal.
“Robin Van Persie is out for a month,” revealed Moyes when speaking at a pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa.
“He picked up a thigh strain in taking a corner kick which led to the goal. It is unfortunate because I think if you look at our record with Wayne Rooney and Robin in the team it is actually very good and we have not had them for quite a period recently.”
Moyes’ admission that his side has missed the strike partnership of van Persie and Rooney in in recognition that the former had only just returned from a month on the sidelines due to separate toe and groin injuries, while Rooney was suspended for last week’s 1-0 defeat to Newcastle.
In fact, the pair haven’t played together in the league since the victory over Arsenal on November 10, when the Red Devils appeared to get their season back on track only to then encounter a run that produced just one win in six matches.
Moyes also has concerns over summer signing Marouane Fellaini as the Belgian midfielder struggles with a back injury, while Michael Carrick remains on the long-term injury list as he is not due back until later this month.
“Marouane Fellaini has a bit of a back injury,” confirmed Moyes. “Michael Carrick is missing and Robin is going to miss four weeks with a thigh strain. That is a big blow to us.”
Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Chris Smalling all sat out the midweek European encounter after they picked up injuries in the Newcastle defeat, although the trio are in contention to return for Sunday game at Villa Park. Despite the constant troubles, Moyes is doing his best to remain positive.
“I have no doubt it will get better,” he explained.
“I am sure we have plenty of players who can cover it and we don't miss them too much.”
Carrick’s absence has certainly been felt though, with Moyes choosing to rotate his central midfield pairings with Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Jones and Fellaini currently his only options in the middle.
Cleverley made the rather surprising admission that he has been nothing more than “average” so far this season, and Moyes is likely to strengthen the troublesome area when the January transfer window opens.
“I do (feel United have felt Carrick's loss),” Moyes continued.
“We need him for his creativity. We have missed him for lots of other reasons as well. It is important.
Moyes confirmed that he will definitely look to freshen up the midfield in the summer, although whether or not he can afford to wait that long remains to be seen with United languishing down in ninth position in the defence of the Premier League crown.
“We were looking for a couple of midfield players in the summer,” Moyes said. “We weren't able to get two. We got one (Fellaini). We needed one who could give us something else if we did get an injury to Michael or one who could have played with him.
“We have definitely been a little bit short in that area. Hopefully he is not too far away and he will be back in a couple of weeks.”
United know that a third straight league loss would leave them a long way out of the title race that their chances would almost be completely diminished before the turn of the year.
Moyes admitted after the last match that they already require a strong run of results to get them back into contention, although they could certainly look to make up ground this weekend with leaders Arsenal heading to the fortress that is the Etihad Stadium, where free-scoring Manchester City are yet to record anything but a win in the league this season.