Manchester United returned to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth, but the win came at a cost with injuries to captain Gary Neville and John O’Shea.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, speaking after Wednesday’s success at Old Trafford, which left the champions three points clear in front with a game in hand, said of the injuries to Neville and O’Shea, the skipper’s replacement at right-back: “There were two bad tackles on them, no action taken. They are out for weeks now, unfortunately. Gary Neville has had to go for an X-ray and John O’Shea will have a scan tomorrow [Thursday].”
“They are both out for a few weeks now and that’s a disappointment,” Ferguson also told Sky Sports.
United have had several injuries to defenders this season, “particularly at right-back,” as Ferguson said before adding: “I don’t think anybody should play there. But fortunately we’ve got Wes Brown back and he plays in the reserves tomorrow, it’s his second game. We’ll give him one half because he could be involved on Saturday [against Tottenham Hotspur].”
Victory left United in a commanding position to retain their title, with Liverpool now seemingly their only realistic challengers after third-placed Chelsea lost ground on Wednesday following a goalless draw at home to Everton, who defeated Ferguson’s side in last weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals.
Asked what the result meant for the title race, Ferguson replied: “We are in a better position than we were this morning. But there’s still a long way to go. Six games seems such a short time but it can be a long time. We will have to deal with it the right way.”
Portsmouth, still not assured of Premier League survival, gave United a game after Wayne Rooney put the hosts in front in the ninth minute, and it was not until Michael Carrick scored eight minutes from time that the champions were assured of victory.
“The players have had a little warning today that if you don’t take your chances, you make it hard for yourself,” Ferguson said.
“So hopefully that message gets through and they start taking the chances their play deserves because some of their play in the first-half was absolutely stunning, some fantastic football,” he said.