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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Man Utd face defensive crisis
Mikael Silvestre
Mikael Silvestre suffered two heavy knocks against Stoke
Manchester United are battling to find four fit defenders to play in Saturday's Premiership opener against Bolton.

Mikael Silvestre suffered an injury scare in Wednesday's friendly against Stoke - leaving Sir Alex Ferguson with only one fully-fit defender.

Wes Brown is a long-term casualty and Gary Neville will definitely miss out with a hamstring injury.

Phil Neville suffered an injury in Sunday's Community Shield which has left him struggling to be fit.

John O'Shea was left on the bench against Arsenal in Cardiff as a precaution although he should shake off a minor knock.

Even experimental left-back Quinton Fortune is carrying an injury.

That leaves Rio Ferdinand as the only definite starter for Ferguson, who may have to move Roy Keane to the centre of his defence against Bolton.

The options are John O'Shea at right-back and Phil Neville on the left
Sir Alex Ferguson
Silvestre lasted 70 minutes of Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to Stoke in United's final pre-season outing at the Britannia Stadium and was eventually withdrawn as a precaution after taking two heavy knocks during the game.

The first one in particular needed lengthy treatment after Silvestre appeared to turn an ankle and Ferguson was left banking on his walking wounded to recover for Saturday.

"Quinton's got a niggly groin injury and Gary has a hamstring," said Ferguson.

"The options are John O'Shea at right-back and Phil Neville on the left."

Ferguson is also likely to hand a starting role to American goalkeeper Tim Howard on Saturday after Fabien Barthez failed to impress against Stoke.

Barthez was handed one last chance to salvage his first-team place after losing his spot to Roy Carroll at the end of last season.

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The eccentric Frenchman made a decent one-handed save to deny Carl Asaba in the first half but was exposed when Marc Goodfellow's shot cannoned off the crossbar and into the net off the back of Barthez's head.

But Ferguson was impressed with new signing Eric Djemba-Djemba, who improved his chances of starting against Bolton with a competent performance.

"Eric did well - I thought he was our best player," Ferguson said.

"He passed with a great authority throughout the game which was good to see."






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