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.”