O'Shea set to solve United's defensive crisis as Irish duo both board plane for Inter clash

23 February 2009 03:03
John O'Shea and Jonny Evans climbed aboard Manchester United

's flight to Milan this morning with manager Sir Alex Ferguson desperately hoping one of them is fit to face Inter in a mammoth Champions League clash tomorrow.  

Sportsmail understands that O'Shea is the closest to match fitness and it is likely that the Republic of Ireland star will take the field as Ferguson avoids another injury crisis on the eve of a big European tie.

With Nemanja Vidic suspended and England duo Gary Neville and Wes Brown both ruled out through injury, Ferguson seemed to be facing a defensive crisis when Evans limped out of Saturday's win over Blackburn with an ankle injury, joining O'Shea, who has a sore heel, on the sidelines.  

Fighting fit: John O'Shea

Struggling: Jonny Evans

While the fitness of neither Irishmen can be guaranteed, the mere fact they were able to make the journey this morning suggested Ferguson is optimistic he will be able to call on one of them.  

O'Shea would be the most likely, although Belfast-born Evans declared his willingness to play if required on Saturday evening.  

Speculation has mounted over the weekend that Sir Alex would be forced to play Michael Carrick out of position at centre half, but Sportsmail has learned that O'Shea responded well to treatment over the weekend.

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Ferguson is also without young player Rafael, who is thought to have picked up a knock against Blackburn on Saturday, but does have Darren Fletcher who could come in.  

With Rio Ferdinand fit, Ferguson does at least have one of his first-choice central defenders available as he bids to guide United towards a repeat of last season's success in the competition.  

Indeed, the Red Devils have not lost in Europe since they were beaten at the San Siro at the semi-final stage two years ago.  

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That loss was to AC Milan, although with Inter now cruising at the top of Serie A, midfielder Michael Carrick admitted there could be no harder test for United, who could land an 18th domestic championship this term following Liverpool's failure to beat Manchester City at Anfield yesterday.  

"Inter are as tough an opponent as we could get right now," said Carrick. "They are in good form at the top of their league.  

"We are both probably amongst the top four or five in Europe at the moment but that is what the Champions League is all about. You have to defeat the best if you want to win it."  

Carrick watched on last week as Inter overcame an AC side including David Beckham in the Milan derby, although that did not come as a surprise.  

"Inter were good but we know what to expect anyway," he said.  

"Going to the San Siro to play Inter is a massive game and a big test for us.  

"Over the past two years we have been very consistent in the Champions League.   "We have not suffered any defeats since the last time we went to the San Siro and hopefully we can keep that run going."

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Source: Daily_Mail