Ferdinand doubt for United

Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 by PA

Rio Ferdinand is a major doubt for Manchester United's derby clash with local rivals City at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Ferdinand sat out Tuesday night's Champions League win over Besiktas with a groin injury and Sir Alex Ferguson is not convinced the England defender will recover in time.

If Ferdinand does miss out, Jonny Evans will retain his place, while Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher are likely to return as United look to end the Blues' 100% record.

Paul Scholes is suspended following his dismissal at Tottenham last weekend.

Ferguson admits City's flying start to the season has earned them the accolade of title contenders.

In the countdown to the most significant derby in four decades, both sides have traded verbal jibes, including Ferguson's put-down of Carlos Tevez and a claim that Liverpool remain United's greatest local foe.

Yet, Ferguson is also willing to admit that by winning their opening four games, something his own side failed to do, Mark Hughes' men have made exactly the kind of start any prospective champion team is looking for.

"You can't afford to lose games in this league," said the United chief.

"When Chelsea won two titles in a row they had fantastic starts and we were playing catch-up.

"We had always programmed our training so we came good in the second half of the season. You cannot afford that luxury now.

"Chelsea have a new coach, new ambitions, new expectation. We are playing catch-up already. The same with City. They have won their games. You would always rather do that than not because this is a really difficult league."

Tevez has returned to training following a knee injury but faces a late fitness test to determine whether he can face his former

club.

The addition of Tevez would be a boost for Hughes as Emmanuel Adebayor starts a three-match suspension.

Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz remain sidelined through injury so Craig Bellamy is likely to start as the lone striker.

City go into the match on the back of a 4-2 victory against Arsenal and Hughes claims United are not the force they were following the departures of Tevez - to Eastlands - and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"They have lost two significant players from last year and any team will be affected by that, " said Hughes. "You cannot afford to lose players of that standard and not replace them.

"I have watched a number of their games and don't think they are playing as well as they did last season.

"United's display against Tottenham (3-1 victory) was their stand-out performance. Prior to that they have been below par."

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