The Christmas injury crisis for Manchester United deepened last night with news that the much-maligned Marouane Fellaini may be out for two months.
With United manager David Moyes already likely to be without Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Michael Carrick and Nani (below) at home to West Ham today, he has had more bad news about £27million summer signing Fellaini.
Fellaini faces a scan on a back problem and if he faces further time on the sidelines, United will push ahead with the wrist surgery they have been delaying since early in the season. That would keep Fellaini out for up to two months.Moyes said: ‘Fellaini has got an injury to his back which we hope might have healed up but I’m going to send him for another scan and if it hasn’t healed up I might need to take a decision and get his wrist done as well. We hope his back would only be 10 days or so but he is still feeling it.
‘We’re waiting to see. We’re not going to say we’re doing that (wrist operation) yet but that would keep him out for about six weeks.’
With United looking to find a run of form that would give them a chance of closing the 10-point gap between them and Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal, Moyes will have to wait for some of his stellar names to return to action.
Rooney has a chance of playing today but is more likely to figure at Hull on Boxing Day.
Carrick, meanwhile, is expected to return from an Achilles problem on that day or New Years’ Day.
‘Michael has been outside on the grass so that’s good,’ said Moyes.
‘If this period is a test of our squad it is certainly going to be a test of every other team in the Premier League because I would think that we have the biggest squad, arguably the strongest squad.
‘We’ve got a squad which is capable of coping. We could nearly change 11 players every game should we need to because we have that depth. We’ve lost key players and big players so we’ve got to make sure we can cope.
‘I’m looking forward to getting them all back and when that happens hopefully we might be going into a period when we are on song and need to kick on again. I don’t think the gap is insurmountable at all. We’ve said it is going to be a season of a few ups and downs.
‘Maybe we’ve had our downs and maybe we’ve got all our ups to come. The history of this club would show that Manchester United have tended to get much better in the second half of the season.’
Moyes last night found himself the subject of bizarre criticism from the outspoken Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen. Having formerly worked with the Dutch national team, Verheijen blames Moyes’ methods for the number of muscle injuries his players have suffered, describing the United manager in a radio interview as ‘prehistoric’ and ‘technically deficient’.
Verheijen said: ‘If you look at the track record of Moyes at Everton you can analyse that in the decade he was there, he had seven or eight times a massive injury crisis. It is very likely the pattern will repeat itself at Manchester United.’
Moyes seemed unperturbed and said only: ‘I don’t know who he is. Maybe if he shows me his credentials and why he’s got reason to speak up then fine but I don’t know anything about him. If he shows me his management career, I could give him an informed response.’
Moyes today comes up against his friend, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, and revealed his opposite number was responsible for his initial move to English football from Scotland 20 years ago.
‘I was playing for Dunfermline against Falkirk and Big Sam was the youth team coach at Preston and was sent to watch me by the manager John Beck,’ Moyes recalled. ‘I had only been sent off once before in my career and I got sent off for a second time in this game for a deliberate handball.
‘I think he went back and said: “What a player I have seen, John!” It is right to say I might not be here had I not gone to Preston. You never know how your career goes.
‘That move was a good move for me as far as how my career went and it gave me a springboard. He still reminds me of it, yes!
‘Sam’s had a brilliant career in management and is one of the senior guys.
‘He’s experienced, having been to Old Trafford many times, so it will be nothing new to him.’ – Daily Mail