United take threadbare defence to Wolfsburg

Manchester United's injury crisis deepened on Monday as they prepared for a Champions League match against Germany's Vfl Wolfsburg with only one first-team defender in their 19-man squad.

Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Rafael, Fabio, John O'Shea and Jonny Evans are all absent due to injury or illness with the latter pair ruled out until the New Year with thigh and calf injuries respectively.

Full-back Patrice Evra is the only first-choice back in the squad with 19-year-old Oliver Gill the only other recognised defender after United's hopes to add Belgian youngster Ritchie de Laet were foiled when he was ruled ineligible due to registration issues, the club said on www.manutd.com.

Midfielder Michael Carrick, who played in the back four in Saturday's 4-0 win at West Ham United, is likely to continue in the role, surrounded by a group of inexperienced youngsters.

United are assured of qualification with one game remaining.

Strikers Wayne Rooney (hamstring) and Dimitar Berbatov (knee) are both receiving treatment after minor knocks, and were left out of the trip along with midfielder Ryan Giggs.

"There's no good news with all these injured players," manager Alex Ferguson told a news conference. "We've left several players behind and have a lot of thinking to do about team selection.

"John O'Shea and Jonny Evans are both out until January. They're out for a few weeks and they're the major injuries as it stands.

"Rafael and Fabio will certainly not (play against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday)," added the manager. "We're hoping that we can have Wes Brown fit."

Champions League debutants Wolfsburg are second in the Group B standings on seven points, the same as CSKA Moscow, who play Besiktas.