LONDON ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Peter Crouch of Spurs is tackled by Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on January 16 2011 in London England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Rio Ferdinand Returns To Training, Could Play Within Weeks

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Rio Ferdinand May Miss Rest Of Season With Calf Injury

The calf injury Rio Ferdinand suffered in the warmup prior to Manchester United's first defeat of the season may be significantly worse than first feared and could rule the current England captain out for the rest of the season. United now face an injury crisis, with no less than five defenders currently sidelined - Ferdinand is joined by centre back partner Nemanja Vidic (two weeks), and right backs John O'Shea (five weeks), Rafael da Silva (two to three weeks) and Johnny Evans (questionable). Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that the health of his defence is causing him some grave concern:

It has been a bad spell for us.

Only a few weeks ago we had every defender fit and things were looking great. It has all just fallen apart in the last week or so. Hopefully Jonny Evans may be fit for Saturday, even if it is a bit of a risk.

Ferguson has already had to field a weakened defence with Ferdinand out, and the Wes Brown-Chris Smalling tandem has been something short of inspiring for the club as their famed defensive line has started to break down around Edwin Van Der Sar. Not coincidentally, United were undefeated in the league while Ferdinand was fit, and his absence has coincided with a spell that's seen the leaders lose three times in five matches, including defeats against rivals Liverpool and Chelsea.

Could a team that's looked unstoppable (admittedly in a rather ramshackle way) at times this year really be brought down by a series of injuries? Time will tell, although with Ferguson's track record in divulging recovery times to the media a cynic might suggest that we'll see Rio Ferdinand in a United jersey as soon as this weekend.

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