Friday 17 February 2012
Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia is set to miss the next month of the season after suffering a hamstring injury.
Valencia, 26, picked up a strain after coming on as a late substitute in United's 2-0 UEFA Europa League last 16 first leg victory over Ajax in Amsterdam on Thursday.
The Ecuadorian was himself taken off only 10 minutes after coming on, getting injured while he was in the process of helping to set up Javier Hernandez to score for United.
"It's a blow to lose Valencia, but bit by bit, we are getting stronger"
- Sir Alex Ferguson
"It looks a bad one," said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the match. "He has a hamstring injury unfortunately. It will be four weeks out."
Losing Valencia is a blow to United, who are only two points behind leaders Manchester City in the Barclays Premier League going into the final few months of the season.
But Ferguson gave midfielder Tom Cleverly his first run-out since October in the Netherlands and he was also able to pick the returning Phil Jones, with other players also getting back to full fitness.
"It's a blow to lose Valencia tonight, but bit by bit, we are getting stronger with Nani and Ashley Young coming back," added Ferguson.
"Tom Cleverley has played a bit of football tonight and Phil Jones has played a full game which is good for us. Chris Smalling was on the bench but will play in the return match at Old Trafford next Thursday."
United's home leg against Ajax on Thursday is their next fixture, with Norwich City away in the Barclays Premier League following on Sunday 26th February.
The impressive Valencia has played in 17 League games for United this season, scoring in the wins over Wigan and Arsenal.