MILAN, February 23 – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson jokingly said on Monday that his defensive crisis had left him panicking ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash at Inter Milan.
Ferguson’s backline headache is even more severe than first thought with teenage Brazilian right-back Rafael Da Silva the latest player to be ruled out with an ankle injury.
Veteran Gary Neville and Wes Brown are already on the treatment table while Nemanja Vidic is suspended and both Jonny Evans and John O’Shea are rated as highly doubtful for the game.
Finding a central defensive partner for Rio Ferdinand is Ferguson’s biggest concern although he revealed that Rafael’s twin brother Fabio could switch from his usual left-back slot to fill in the gap on the right.
"The options are: panic. I think I can play Dimitar (Berbatov) as sweeper," joked Fergie, I hope one of them (Evans and O’Shea) will make it. O’Shea might, then we have the problem at right-back."
Earlier in the day Inter coach Jose Mourinho had said he believes United will come to defend and settle for a draw, but Fergie dismissed any notion of that.
"I’m sure Jose has seen us enough to know that we very seldom go into a game not trying to win and that won’t change tomorrrow," said the United boss.
"Obviously we have some injury problems and we won’t know until tomorrow for O’Shea. He did a little light session on his own, not with the other players. Jonny Evans wasn’t able to train.
"These these are the major doubts but everyone else is fit and travelled. Obviously these are the big concerns with Wes Brown and Gary Neville both injured and Nemanja Vidic suspended.
"It’s a worrying moment for us but in the context of our club we’ve accepted it and got on with it.
"We have the challenge of having to play in a stadium tomorrow with such a fantastic crowd that will help the players, I’m sure of that.
"I wish we were in a better position tomorrow defensively in terms of availability but that happens in football, we have to carry on with the competition tomorrow.
"We still have the opportunity to take Inter back to Old Trafford with a good result. If we score an away goal it will giver us a great chance.
"You’re always intent in Europe to get that goal that means something really big when you get back to your own ground"
Ferguson agreed that the match could boil down to a shoot-out between two of the best players in Europe, Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Their star player without any question is Ibrahimovic. He’s had a fantastic season and is getting all the praise he deserves," he added.
"I’ve watched him for many years and he has developed. He’s at that age where you expect a bit of maturity and that is what we are seeing now.
"Everything has already been said about Cristiano, he’s a fantastic player and I hope my players have a better night tomorrow than Inter."
One of those players Ferguson is hoping will hit form is striker Berbatov, who revealed that it was to play in exactly this type of game that he made the switch from Tottenham in the summer.
"That’s why I came here, to win the Champions League. I think we will be capable of doing that again," he said.
"We have the team, the players, obviously we’re facing a very good team tomorrow who have good players, as do we.
"It will be great game to play in and to watch. We want to win so we hope to have a great game before the second leg.
"Every player needs to develop and that’s why I came here, to develop my game more and more and the future will show if that was the right move."