United blighted by defensive crisis

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MANCHESTER, March 18- Sir Alex Ferguson is praying a defensive crisis doesn’t come back to haunt his Manchester United side's push for silverware.

A string of injuries has left the Manchester United manager down to his bare bones ahead of Saturday’s visit of Bolton.

If the thought of his five-match touchline ban wasn’t enough, Ferguson has been left counting the cost of their midweek Champions League win over Marseille.

With Rio Ferdinand already joining Nemanja Vidic on the sidelines, John O’Shea and Rafael have been added to the growing injury list.

And having to cope with a mountain of defensive problems, the veteran Scot admits the latest setbacks is the last thing his depleted squad needed.

"It has been a bad spell for us," Ferguson said. "Only a few weeks ago we had every defender fit and things were looking great.

"It has all just fallen apart in the last week or so. Hopefully Jonny Evans may be fit.

"He has trained all week but it’s a bit of a rick as he’s been out for such a long time.

"The bonus of someone like Wes Brown, for instance, who can play right back or centre back, is a big plus and bringing in Chris Smalling, in the way he has performed hopefully we will get round it.

"The hope we’ve got, that the international break might give us a chance to get one or two patched up and in a better shape by the time we get to the West Ham game."

Midfielder Michael Carrick is just hoping he is not pressed into service as an emergency defender once again.

With 11 players in all doubtful, it’s a similar position to the one United found themselves in last season, when both Carrick and Darren Fletcher found themselves in defence for a match in a crushing loss at Fulham.

United face Bolton having lost their last two league games, defeats which have seen their lead over Arsenal reduced to three points.

Carrick is hoping to avoid more defensive duties in the search for a solution to United’s injury woes.

"It did get a mention in the changing room," he said. "I said to Mike Phelan (assistant manager) ‘I don’t fancy that again’.

"It is never nice to get the injuries of course. It is disappointing when you pick up a number in a similar position.

"But I don’t think we are that desperate yet and hopefully I won’t."

Ferguson has warned that United can ill-afford to take anything for granted with an upwardly-mobile Bolton side who booked their place in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend.

"Bolton always give you a hard game and it’s a local derby so nothing will change," he said. "They’ve done extremely well this season.

"It’s a big one for us. They have improved and are challenging for a European place and are in the FA Cup semi-finals. They will come with a degree of confidence."

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