Sir Alex Ferguson expects Antonio Valencia to return to action for Manchester United as soon as February following the winger’s ankle surgery.
The Ecuador international, 25, suffered a dislocated and fractured ankle, as well as ligament damage, in the goalless draw with Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Ferguson had initially feared that the former Wigan player’s season was over and compared Valencia’s injury to that suffered by Alan Smith at Liverpool in 2006.
But, following his operation,that United have now confirmed that Valencia suffered a clean break and could be on the sidelines for only five months.
The United manager thinks that the likes of Nani, Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe will provide adequate cover for the injured right winger.
Ferguson feels that Valencia has the right mentality to battle his way back to fitness and will not be affected psychologically.
The United manager said: “The topic from Tuesday night about Antonio is that it’s been resolved in that he’s had his operation, it’s been successful. The break was clean which we’re delighted about.
“That was a major concern for us at the time and the ligament damage will mean that, although you’re never 100 percent accurate in these situations with a bad injury, we’re looking at the end of February, which is better than we thought on Tuesday night.
“He’s a strong boy and he’s very positive about it. Being positive helps you in these situations so we’re very hopeful we’ll get him back.
“He had a great season last season and he was a great signing for us. He’s been improving all the time and he’s a young player.
“It’s a blow losing good players but in the context of the kind of squad we have, we should cope with it and we have a strong squad.
“You always feel that when you have a good player out of your team it is a loss but it shouldn’t be a massive loss, a loss you can’t cope with.
“Having players like Nani, Giggs, Ji-Sung Park, Obertan and Bebe, there are options there and hopefully we can cope with it.”
Ferguson will decide whether to keep Rio Ferdinand in his team for Sunday’s game against Liverpool after the defender came through his first United game of the season following a knee problem in the summer.
He added: “That was positive. He acquitted himself well and he had a good appetite for it. He was very positive in his game which is good and we’ll see how he recovers because it was his first game for quite a while.
“No matter that he didn’t have a lot to do, he still had to play 90 minutes.”
While Ferguson has previously been critical of the way the fixtures have fallen, he insists it will not work to his advantage this weekend. United played Rangers on Tuesday, while Liverpool beat Steaua Bucharest 4-1 in the Europa League on Wednesday.
He said: “You can get breaks like that. The first game of the season we played on the Monday after the internationals so we look to take advantage of that.
“But Liverpool rested players against Steaua anyway so it doesn’t really matter in respect to the fitness of both teams. Both will be well prepared for the game.”
Ferguson has also confirmed that Dimitar Berbatov will start Sunday’s game after being rested for the Rangers match.
The Bulgarian has often received heavy criticism since joining in a 30.75 million pounds deal from Tottenham two years ago, but has scored four goals this season.
Ferguson added: “Not everyone’s questioned him. He has a lot of admirers, particularly at this club.
“The situation is that when we buy a player for a lot of money there’s more focus on him and if they have a bad game, they get criticism that other players would not get.
“He’s had some terrific games for us, marvellous games, and I told him to dismiss the press. I think he worried about himself.
“But he’s expressed himself very well this season, he’s enjoying his football and he’ll play on Sunday.”
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