Young defender Scott Wootton is set to feature in Manchester United’s clash with resurgent Tottenham tomorrow, with the Reds hamstrung by their defensive injury crisis.
The 21-year-old impressed in an inexperienced back four during Wednesday’s Capital One Cup win over Newcastle, and is in line to make his Premier League debut after United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said he would be involved against Spurs.
United – seeking their fifth straight league win and perhaps top spot – may also be without Antonio Valencia, with the Ecuadorian still nursing an ankle injury sustained in Sunday’s win at Liverpool.
“Scott reads the game well, passes the ball well and, having seen him in a situation against very experienced players, he did really well,” said Ferguson. “That’s a bonus for us.”
Wootton’s rise comes with United enduring a chronic shortage of fit defenders – Nemanja Vidic was ruled out for two months last week after knee surgery, with Phil Jones another long-term absentee.
Ferguson does not expect Chris Smalling to return until after the next international break but has faith in Wootton to fill the boots of his experienced teammates.
Andre Villas Boas’ Tottenham made a slow start in the Premier League following the Portuguese man’s return to English football after being sacked by Chelsea in March, but there are signs they are now starting to click.
Spurs chase a first-ever Premier League win at Old Trafford on the back of three straight wins in all competitions but could be forced to deal with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie operating in tandem.
Rooney’s return to action against Newcastle was haied as ‘terrific’ by Ferguson, and he and Van Persie will be pushing for starting berths after the Dutchman was rested on Wednesday.
The mouth-watering prospect of them combining will be particularly appetising to Ferguson, after he bemoaned United’s inability to create clear chances against Liverpool despite their 2-1 victory at Anfield.
Spurs are likely to recall their top stars – including Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe – after they sat out Wednesday’s cup win at Carlisle.