Hell Awaits For The Red Devils

Sir Alex Ferguson has said Manchester United cannot allow themselves to wallow in the fallout from their worst league run since 2004 and the aftermath of the "disgraceful" tackle from Jamie Carragher that has ruled Nani out of their FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal on Saturday.

United have lost three of their past five league matches and a difficult period for Ferguson has been compounded by a Football Association charge of improper conduct following his criticisms of the referee Martin Atkinson, after the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

"I have sympathy for myself," Ferguson said pointedly when asked whether he sympathised with Arsène Wenger for the manner of Arsenal's Champions League defeat at Barcelona. "I didn't have an easy week myself."

Ferguson's anger with Carragher was apparent as the United manager discussed facing Arsenal without the player who has scored 10 times and created 15 goals for the Premier League leaders this season. Nani is also expected to miss the match against Bolton Wanderers next Saturday but Ferguson wants his players to show their character by not allowing their first serious blip of the season to develop into a slump.

"Obviously it was a disgraceful tackle, we know that, but you just move on," he said. "There's nothing we can do about it now. That's in the past and I'm more interested in tomorrow. We've got to look forward now. There are big opportunities at this club and we have a lot of challenges ahead of us for the rest of the season.

"We have the experience to recover. It's happened a few times here and, at any club, you never go through a season where everything is rosy. When you get the bad moments you have to recover from it. It's another day in the history of Manchester United and you take that history into games. The ability to do that over the years is a tremendous credit to every team we've had here."

Ferguson prides himself on the way his team "respond to adversity" and he is hoping the fact that only five of his players – Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Wes Brown, John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher – have won an FA Cup medal will act as a form of motivation. "It's a few years since we last won it [in 2004]," he said. "It's interesting, for example, to see that Rio [Ferdinand] has never won an FA Cup medal, which I'm surprised about. So it is an opportunity for these players. The incentive for both teams is a semi-final and you always like to take your team to Wembley. I don't entirely agree with semi-finals being played at Wembley. Nonetheless, it is Wembley, so it's a smashing incentive for everyone."

Arsenal's injury issues are mirrored at Old Trafford, with Nani's absence leaving the side short of options in wide positions. Gabriel Obertan is being considered for a recall while in defence Ferdinand has been ruled out again, sidelined since 1 February because of a calf injury that Ferguson had said would take two to three weeks to heal.

United's poor recent form has allowed Arsenal to close the gap at the top – Wenger's side can draw level if they win their game in hand – and Ferguson will play his strongest team despite the second leg of the Champions League tie against Marseille approaching on Tuesday.

"They [Arsenal] are certainly closer to winning the league this season," he said. "That's without question, so that indicates an improvement in their team. But they've always had good sides, ever since I've come down here. Their history demands that. We're the same. We have to have competitive, successful teams. That's what big clubs have to do."

As for Nani, Ferguson explained why the gash inflicted by Carragher's studs had not been stitched up until Wednesday. "The wound was too wide. We sent him to the hospital to see what they could do and our own doctor and the surgeon there managed to get it stitched up, which was fantastic, the best news we could have. The alternative would have been to wait and just let it heal but the problem with that is infection."

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