Patrick Vieira is England-bound in a bid to keep France World Cup spot.
|United face Birmingham on Saturday in their first match after their shock Leeds loss [AFP]|
Cold weather in Britain has disrupted the weekend English Premier league fixtures, with four matches postponed due to the freezing and dangerous conditions of the pitches.
Three games on Saturday – Fulham v Portsmouth in London, Burnley v Stoke in the northwest and Sunderland v Bolton in the northeast of the country – have been postponed, and Liverpool’s game against Tottenham on Sunday has been postponed due to conditions around Anfield.
Despite the weather, the majority of weekend fixtures are continuing, and the cold weather is the least of the problems for Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who faces newly promoted Birmingham.
Business as usual
United are coming off a humiliating FA Cup exit to third-tier Leeds with a squad still hampered by injury absentees. Nemanja Vidic has been ruled out for 10 days after tweaking a nerve in his leg and joins fellow centre back Rio Ferdinand on the sidelines.
The cup loss to Leeds capped a patchy first half of the season for United, who remain second in the standings in their bid for a fourth straight Premier League title.
United’s dip in form is reflected in their last 11 league results, compared with those of opponents Birmingham. Both sides have won seven, but while United have lost four, Birmingham are unbeaten after four draws.
Saturday January 9
Arsenal v Everton
Postponed due to weather
Burnley v Stoke
Sunday January 10
West Ham v Wolves
Postponed due to weather
Liverpool v Tottenham
Monday January 11
Man City v Blackburn
Ferguson insists there are funds available for reinforcements, but says he won’t rush to make any signings in the January transfer window.
“I can’t see any real diamonds,” Ferguson said.
“We’ve got the money – there’s no question about that. I just don’t see that player that can make a difference to us in terms of value and availability.”
Midfielder Ryan Giggs, a veteran of every Premier League campaign, remains confident United can lift a 19th English title, with United just two points behind leader Chelsea.
“It has always been the same. One defeat and it is a disaster. That is never going to change,” Giggs said.
“But we don’t get carried away with that, just the same as we wouldn’t get carried away if we had won 10 on the bounce.
“It is up to us to work hard and get back to winning ways because we are still in a strong position.”
Missing in action
League leaders Chelsea begin a run of league matches at Hull without four key African players.
|Drogba is playing for Cote D’Ivoire at the Africa Cup of Nations[AFP]|
Talismanic striker Didier Drogba, striker Salomon Kalou and midfielders Michael Essien and John Mike Obi will miss much of January with their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations which starts on Sunday.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti believes Nicolas Anelka, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, and 20-year-old forward Daniel Sturridge can help fill the void left by Drogba and Kalou.
“Anelka is a very important player for us,” Ancelotti said.
“He has shown he can play with Didier in attack and without him. He played the first
three games in the Champions League without Didier and he did very well for us.”
Arsenal had to call off their match against Bolton on Wednesday, but remain hopeful that the Emirates Stadium can host Everton.
Arsenal, who thrashed the Merseyside club 6-1 on the opening day of the season, are four points behind Chelsea with a game in hand but will be without injured captain Cesc Fabregas.
Everton striker Landon Donovan could make the first appearance of his 10-week loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“He has had a month’s holiday off the back-end of their season and to put him back in after five days’ training is not really the right thing to do, but the needs are at this present time that we might need to do that,” manager David Moyes said.
“It will be very difficult for any player coming from another country to deliver straight away but hopefully he can help us in some of the cups and the league. If it doesn’t work for him then at least we’ve given it a go and tried it.”