Injury woes for Man U before Milan clash

AC Milan has beaten Man U all three times in the European Cup, and Man U's injury crisis means it won't be easy to reverse that trend on Tuesday.

updated: April 25, 2007 18:10 IST
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AC Milan has beaten Manchester United all three times in the European Cup. The Red Devils' injury crisis means it won't be easy to reverse that trend on Tuesday.

United manager Alex Ferguson is without eight players - including three first-choice defenders - for the first leg of the Champions League semifinals at Old Trafford.

Rio Ferdinand limped off in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough after aggravating a groin injury, joining fellow defenders Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville, Mikael Silvestre and Craig Cathcart on the sidelines.

Midfielders Kieran Richardson and Park Ji-sung and striker Louis Saha have also been ruled out.

"We have concerns about one or two injuries. But important players are playing tomorrow and it's good to have them. I don't have any fears," said Ferguson.

France defender Patrice Evra is expected to recover from an ankle injury and start on the bench.

"I look at my own team and wish we had more experience in certain situations. But equally I get encouraged by the hope and the future of the younger players who in particular games can really excite people," Ferguson said.

Milan's most recent victory over the Red Devils came in the first knockout round in 2005 - winning both legs 1-0. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said he was thinking about that encounter rather than United's injury crisis

"The important thing is not to focus on that (United's injuries). Rather to focus on imposing our game, as we did a couple of years ago," Ancelotti said.

United, the Premier League leader and FA Cup finalist, is full of confidence after routing the Rossoneri's Serie A rival AS Roma 7-1 in the second leg of the quarterfinals.

Ronaldo magic

It should be made easier if Cristiano Ronaldo is at the top of his game, tormenting defenders. The Portugal winger scored his first European goal for United against Roma.

On Sunday, he became the first person in three decades to win two player of the year awards, including top young player.

"He is one of the strongest players there are around, he has absolutely everything. He's fast, he's strong, he scores goals, he's good in the air, he's extremely inventive, he's still young _ and could no doubt go on to be even better," Milan captain Paolo Maldini said.

While United may be struggling to field a team, Maldini was one of six Milan players rested in Saturday's 3-1 win over Cagliari in the Serie A.

"They (United) are playing against a Milan team which has a great deal of class - a great deal of experience," Maldini said.

Another player who had the weekend off was Brazil midfielder Kaka, who is the Champions League's top scorer this season with seven goals.

"He's a very talented player," Ferguson said of Kaka. "He does have good movement, which springs him into different positions. That shouldn't be the biggest problem for us because English teams always play zonal defending anyway."

Ancelotti's biggest concern is over Brazil goalkeeper Dida's shoulder injury. He trained with the squad in Manchester on Monday, but will have to pass a late fitness test ahead of Milan's fourth semifinal match in five years.

United has lost just once in 29 games at Old Trafford in the Champions League, but Milan has conceded just one away goal in Europe this season.

"Playing at Manchester is hard _ they have an amazing public which is easily aroused," defender Alessandro Nesta said. "The atmosphere in general will be 50 percent of the battle."

Old Trafford was the venue for Milan's sixth European Cup victory - in 2003 against Juventus on penalty kicks - while United hasn't lifted the trophy since 1999, when it beat Bayern Munich in the final.