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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Double blow for Boro over Schwarzer and Mido

Luckless Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate suffered a double blow today when he learnt he could be without two key players for an extended period.

The 37-year-old's main concern is over Egypt striker Mido, whose groin injury means he may not play again until well into the new year.

To make matters worse, X-rays confirmed that goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer fractured his thumb in training on Tuesday and will definitely miss Saturday's Premier League trip to Reading.

Indeed, the 35-year-old Australian is expected to be out of action for two to three weeks, although the club's initial fears that he might have had to sit out for twice that time have been eased.

Southgate said: 'With Mido, we have known for a while that the injury he has got could be quite long-term.

'He is going to need a period of probably four weeks, at least, recovery and another period of rehabilitation from it.

'That is a blow, but not completely unexpected because we knew the nature of the problem.

'Mark picked up an injury to his thumb in training on Tuesday.

'There is a fracture there, but we think it is probably nearer two to three weeks rather than the four to six weeks which was initially feared.'

Mido, 24, arrived at Boro in a £6million switch from Tottenham during the summer transfer window and announced himself on Teesside with a goal on his debut in a 2-1 win at Fulham, and another a week later in the derby draw with Newcastle.

However, he has managed only five appearances since, one of them as a substitute, as a result of hamstring and groin problems.

His last game came in the 2-0 home defeat by Chelsea on October 20, and the club today revealed the problem has developed into a stress reaction in the pubic bone.

Mido has on more than one occasion resumed training, only to complain of discomfort once again and now the decision has been taken that an extended period of rest and rehabilitation is the only solution.

Schwarzer's problem is more straightforward, although its implications are more far-reaching.

Deputy Brad Jones is also out of action with a thigh injury, leaving 22-year-old Ross Turnbull to hold the fort and 17-year-old Jason Steele as his potential back-up.

Turnbull, who was withdrawn from the reserve-team squad for Wednesday night's trip to Bolton, is in line to make his third senior appearance for the club after playing eight games on loan at Cardiff earlier this season.

Southgate said: 'To be honest, we are getting quite used to it. People say we are having no luck, but we are - it is just it is all bad.

'We have to get on with it. It is a great opportunity for Ross Turnbull, with Mark getting his injury.

'He is really looking forward to the chance.'

There was at least some good news for Southgate as midfielder Julio Arca came through 59 minutes of the 3-1 win at Bolton unscathed on his return from a medial ligament injury.

He will go straight into the squad for the game at the Madejski Stadium.

Southgate said: 'I cannot under-estimate how much of a miss he has been. He is an outstanding player and character.

'Just watching him in the reserves last night, not only his quality on the ball, but the way he organises other people, the way he leads the team, the way he makes demands of other people, he is a top-drawer player and it is great to have him back with us.'