Wes Brown, the 19-year-old full-back who made such an impact at Old Trafford last season that he forced his way into the England side, has suffered a freak knee injury in training.
Brown was all set to start the season in Alex Ferguson's first team as replacement for another knee injury victim, Ronny Johnsen, but the United manager was yesterday considering a return to the transfer market because of his growing casualty list. Brown sees a specialist today to assess the damage and faces major surgery for an injury that could effect his long-term career. The problem will inevitably distress the England manager Kevin Keegan, who gave Brown an early international debut against Bulgaria last month.
Brown twisted as his studs caught in the turf at the training ground on Tuesday but no-one imagined the extent of the trouble. A grim-faced Ferguson said last night: "Wes has got a bad knee injury. He will be out for a long time while he recovers."
United are already without Johnsen, who is going through a special training programme in an attempt to avoid an operation for a condition called "jumper's knee". It leaves Ferguson with Jaap Stam, David May and Henning Berg as recognised central defenders. He has the Neville brothers as additional options.
So far Ferguson's only pre-season journey into the transfer market other than to Aston Villa for the predicted signing of Mark Bosnich has been to Peterborough United. The Third Division club's Welsh under-21 international midfielder Simon Davies was at Old Trafford for talks yesterday and took part in a trial match behind closed doors at the club's Cliff training ground.
Davies is one of several promising players at Peterborough and United have moved in first for him ahead of several Premier League rivals. He comes from the village of Solva in Pembrokeshire and is the first Welshman to sign for United since Mark Hughes rejoined the club from Barcelona.
He made his international debut in October 1998 against Denmark and was drafted into the senior squad for the European Championship qualifier with Denmark in June. The midfield destroyer has earned the nickname "digger" because of his strong tackling.
The move is as quick as it is unexpected and Peterborough's extrovert manager Barry Fry, a former United player, was in attendance to see him against Argentinian club Boca Juniors in a private friendly.
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