Date: 21st February 2006 at 9:47pm
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The United camp are still coming to terms with the shattering blow of Alan Smith’s horrific injury, which not only ended the Yorkshireman’s hopes of making this summer’s World Cup, but weakened an already under-strength midfield.

Smith is the fourth long-term casualty at Old Trafford this term, with Paul Scholes already ruled out for the season and Quinton Fortune only just back from a knee injury.

Full-back Gabriel Heinze has also been missing since September after he rupturing cruciate ligaments against Villarreal in the opening game of United’s ill-fated Champions League campaign.

Heinze is now optimistic of a return before the season reaches its climax, which could yet make him available for Argentina’s World Cup campaign.