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Defensive crisis for United

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is facing a major defensive headache afterbeing left with just two fit defenders in his first-team squad.

United ended yesterday's 4-0 Premier League win over West Ham with Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra at centre-back and Ryan Giggs at full-back after Gary Neville and Wes Brown added to an already-lengthy injury list.

Evra and young Belgian Ritchie De Laet are United's only two fit defenders, with reserve player Corry Evans -brother of centre-back Jonny - likely to be called into the squad for Tueday's Champions League clash with Wolfsburg.

Both Neville and Brazilian Fabio are suffering from groin problems, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand have calf injuries, John O'Shea is out with thigh trouble, while Edwin van der Sar, Rafael and Brown are all missing too.

Young centre-back James Chester, winner of the club's Reserve Player of the Year Award last season, was included in United's Champions League squad, but is currently on-loan at Championship side Plymouth Argyle, while fellow defensive prospect Craig Cathcart is also on-loan, at Watford.

A draw for United against Wolfsburg would win the group but Ferguson's more pressing concern is being able to field a defence that can compete with the reigning Bundesliga champions.

First choice centre-back Vidic was missing from yesterday's line-up with flu but is expected to return to form a makeshift central defensive partnership with midfielder Carrick in Germany, with Darren Fletcher starting - as he did against West Ham - at right-back.

"Evra must be the smallest centre half in the world,'' said the United boss. "But he's a good reader of the game. He's quick and determined.

"I don't know where I'm going to get a back four for Tuesday. Probably Nemanja Vidic will be back from flu and I'll probably play Carrick alongside him.''

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