Sport

Wary Sir Alex refuses to rely on record as Jonny Evans and Nani ruled out of Manchester United’s trip to Aston Villa

By Dean Wilkins

Champions League qualification as group winners has come at a price as Jonny Evans and Nani are ruled out of Manchester United’s visit to Aston Villa tomorrow.

The Portuguese winger is sidelined with a tight hamstring and will be out for ten days, according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson – while Evans could feature, but only if he passes a fitness test.

And with Chris Smalling’s convincing return to European’s elite football, following a six month layoff, Evans’ absence may not be too much of a nightmare for Sir Alex.

“We’re hoping Evans will be okay for Saturday,” Sir Alex said. “He’s a doubt, although not a serious one.

“Nani is out with a tight hamstring and that will be around ten days but he should be okay. It’s not torn, just tight.”

Smalling suffered a groin strain and broken metatarsal over the summer, missing England’s Euro 2012 campaign in the process, and is a shining light in the Scots’ plans.

“We’re monitoring the situation with Jonny,” Sir Alex added. “If he doesn’t make it then Chris will have to play.

“It’s asking a lot for him to play Wednesday and then Saturday [having just come back]. The great thing is that he’s back and there are no issues with him at all.

“He did very well on Wednesday – we were pleased with that.”

United travel south to Villa Park tomorrow, taking a dominant record of just two losses in their 20 previous league visits.

But having watched their 23-year unbeaten home record to Tottenham Hotspur tumble earlier this season, Sir Alex is not taking any risks with Paul Lambert’s men.

“Although we have a great record at Villa Park we never take them for granted,” he added.

“We’ve always had to perform there. It’s been a good ground for us as a team, though, and I’ve always enjoyed it.

“It’s one of the old traditional grounds. There’s always a good atmosphere and the support is always fantastic.

“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going as it’s got us into a good position.”

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