Manchester United's first win of the season vs. West Bromwich Albion was both a dream and a nightmare start to their 2011-12 Premier League campaign. The Premier League champions got off to an extremely slow start away from Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be very satisfied with his club's away win to start the new Premier League season. But that manager is set to lose three of his first-team defenders to injury, with Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Rafael da Silva set to miss action in the coming weeks.
United captain Nemanja Vidic is set to miss up to five weeks with a calf injury. The Serbian international's partner in crime, Rio Ferdinand, will miss two to three weeks due to a nagging hamstring injury, while Brazilian right-back Rafael will miss at least 10 weeks with a dislocated shoulder that he suffered in training.
Thankfully, United have players who can fill the voids left by Vidic, Ferdinand, and Rafael due to their incredible depth. New signing Phil Jones will get an early chance to convince Fergie that he is good enough to be featured in United's starting XI.
His previous partnership experience with Chris Smalling while playing for England's U-21 team may lead to Sir Alex fancying the two over the more experienced Jonny Evans.
After the unfortunate injuries to Ferdinand and Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones addressed the media on the team's loss and the need for players to step up and seize the opportunity that has presented itself.
Chris Smalling, according to the Manchester Evening News:
“It is unfortunate that we have lost big players such as Rio and Nemanja. They have been the main backbone for United over a number of years and are a big part of the reason why the club have won so much.
“But I suppose a door has opened. Somebody has to step up to the plate. I will be the same as the others wanting to step into that centre-back role and do the job.
“I want to do a job as well as the likes of Rio have done for so many years. It is important that whoever steps in does the business.
“The manager showed he has got faith in us by keeping a number of young players in the team at West Brom from the Community Shield.
“A lot of clubs were after Phil and it was great that United were able to sign him. We can work, grow and develop together and be a big part of the future of this club. We have an opportunity now, and we have to take it.”
Phil Jones, according to the Manchester Evening News:
“Chris and I have done really well together with England and kept quite a few clean sheets. We communicate well and read each other’s game, which is a good thing to have in a partnership at the back.”
“I played in that 7-1 hammering for Blackburn last season. I’m glad now I’m playing for United, not against them.”
As far as replacing Rafael, twin brother Fabio is by far United's best option. Fabio's ability to make marauding runs forward and provide dangerous crosses into the box make him a great weapon for Sir Alex Ferguson.
If he puts in some great performances over the next 10 weeks, Fabio may just leapfrog Rafael and become United's most featured right-back in 2011-12.