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Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Friday, 17 September 2010 10:54 UK

Man Utd's Antonio Valencia could return in February

Antonio Valencia and Kirk Broadfoot
Valencia (left) tussles with Broadfoot before suffering his injury

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson says Antonio Valencia could be playing again in February following his injury in Tuesday's clash with Rangers.

The winger, 25, suffered significant ligament damage plus a fractured ankle and underwent surgery on Wednesday.

There had been initial fears that the Ecuadorian would miss the whole season.

But Ferguson said: "You can never be 100% and it is a bad injury but we are looking at the end of February, which is better than we thought on Tuesday."

Valencia was carried off during the goalless draw with the Scottish giants after going down under an innocuous-looking tackle from defender Kirk Broadfoot in the 62nd minute.

Ferguson said that former United player Alan Smith was a perfect example of showing the mental strength required to come back from such a bad injury.

Smith, now at Newcastle, broke his left leg and dislocated his ankle in an FA Cup tie against Liverpool in February 2006 and was out of action for seven months.

"There is a mental part to it," the Scot added. "Take the example of Alan Smith. When Alan got his bad injury in that cup tie against Liverpool, he was so positive.

"He sat in that treatment room at Anfield so nonchalant and relaxed about it. Yet you look at his ankle and think 'God almighty'. That attitude definitely helped him."


The Old Trafford boss remained hopeful that his squad would deal without the pace and skills of Valencia for the bulk of the season.

"You always fear when you have a good player out of your team it is going to be a loss," Ferguson said.

"But having players like Nani, Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-sung, plus Gabriel Obertan and Bebe means we have options.

"Antonio had a great season last year. He was a great signing for us. He is a young player who has been improving all the time. It is a blow losing good players but in the context of the kind of squad we have, we should be able to cope with it."

Manchester United are already missing England midfielder Michael Carrick because of an ankle injury, although Brazilian Anderson is available again following a seven-month absence with cruciate ligament damage.

With United and Liverpool set for Old Trafford's showdown on Sunday, Ferguson is expected to name a stronger line-up after resting key players for the Champions League opening encounter with Rangers.

That match ended in a 0-0 draw, and Ferguson was criticised for leaving out in-form striker Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian will definitely start against Liverpool.

Ferguson said: "Dimitar has had some terrific games for us. He is enjoying his football and he will play on Sunday."

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, defenders Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra and Paul Scholes, who all missed Tuesday's game, are also likely to be recalled.

In Valencia's absence, more responsibility may now fall upon Portuguese winger Nani.

Valencia, who arrived at United from Wigan in June 2009 as Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Real Madrid, was injured during his fourth appearance of a season that began with him scoring in the 3-1 Community Shield win over Chelsea.

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see also
Man Utd 0-0 Rangers
14 Sep 10 |  Europe
Ferguson expects Man Utd gripes
14 Sep 10 |  Man Utd
Smith defends Gers' Euro tactics
14 Sep 10 |  Rangers
Tuesday's football photos
14 Sep 10 |  Football
Achilles injury sidelines Carrick
10 Sep 10 |  Man Utd
Chelsea 1-3 Man Utd
08 Aug 10 |  Football
Smith describes broken leg agony
20 Feb 06 |  Man Utd
Valencia joins Man Utd from Wigan
30 Jun 09 |  Man Utd

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