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Injury headaches for all three title challengers

If it wasn’t so true the media would have needed to make it up! Just when the cruel injury suffered by super striker Wayne Rooney in Munich appeared to severely diminish the chances of a fourth successive Premier League title for Manchester United, fate intervened just24 hours later to also possibly derail the challenges of  rivals Arsenal and Chelsea.

The Gunners showed their resilience by fighting back from a two goal deficit to share a 2-2 draw with Barcelona at the Emirates but in the process, skipper Cesc Fabregas picked up an injury which could rule him out for the rest of the season with a hairline fracture of his fibula. William Gallas is unlikely to play again before the World Cup due to a pulled calf muscle while Andrei Arshavin faces the prospect of a lengthy absence after suffering a calf strain.

Meanwhile, Chelsea face a major injury worry of their own according to a report in the Daily Mail. Striker Didier Drogba is battling to be fit ahead of  Saturdays clash at Old Trafford which may go a long way towards deciding the title. Drogba has put away 30 goals in all competitions but missed last weekends thumping 7-1 win over Aston Villa. Manager Carlo Ancelotti blamed fatigue together with an accumulation of bumps and bruises forcing him to sit out the last two days of training.

With just six matches remaining in the closest race for years, those clubs can ill afford to lose any of their key players but United seem to have been dealt the heaviest blow with Rooney likely to be ruled out for up to four weeks. The injury could not have come at a worse time for manager Sir Alex Ferguson. As the season reaches its decisive stage, he currently has just three fit front men to choose from. Michael Owen (hamstring) and Danny Welbeck (knee) have both been ruled out for the season, while Rooney is left sweating on news of his injury.

The only remaining options available to Ferguson ahead of Chelsea’s visit are very limited, they include…DIMITAR BERBATOV: £30.75m club record signing who must now shoulder the goalscoring burden. So far this season, the Bulgarian has managed just 12 goals in 36 appearances. He has also failed to score against any of the top clubs this term, with Everton the highest ranked team to have conceded a goal to the former Spurs man…MAME DIOUF: The athletic forward from Senegal has been billed as one for the future following his £2m arrival from Molde in December, but the future might have to be now. Yet to start a senior game, Diouf has impressed in the reserves with his pace and eye for goal. But his current record reads as one goal against Burnley in six substitute appearances…FEDERICO MACHEDA: The young Italian striker is only 18 years old and has made just six appearances this season, with only one brief outing as a substitute in the Premier League. The highly promising youngster scored crucial goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland last season, but hamstring and calf injuries have held him back this term. Now fit and available, Macheda might be asked to play the hero again in the closing weeks.

Ferguson has never been afraid to take a gamble, so if things get really desperate, he may even be prepared to shuffle his pack by using…RYAN GIGGS: The 36 year-old was sometimes deployed as a central striker in his early days at United, so the role would not be alien to Giggs. But whether he has the energy to play the role now remains to be seen…PAUL SCHOLES: who was a prodigious goalscorer for the reserves as a teenager, when he formed a deadly partnership with Dion Dublin. The 35 year-old has a natural goalscorers’ instinct, but his goal threat has dimmed with age and he would find it tough to perform as a striker now…FEBIAN BRANDY: The 21 year-old forward is a regular scorer for the reserves, but has yet to make a senior appearance. An England U-20 international, Brandy has had loan spells at Swansea and Hereford.

Whichever way he decides to go Ferguson cannot do anything but trust his experienced instincts whilst hoping that the cruel injury picked up by his star striker in the dying seconds of a game that was virtually over does not undermine a season that had promised so much.

Who should spearhead the United attack in the absence of Rooney?


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