CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA // Back in Manchester, they had lost another defender to a training ground accident. On the first leg of a globe-hopping pre-season tour, Manchester United turned to an infamous forward to avoid an unexpected loss.
Chris Smalling had been exempted the long air miles and hotel days demanded by two commerce-laden fixtures in South Africa and next week's meeting with Didier Drogba's Shanghai Shenhua.
While his rehabilitation from a groin tear should have allowed Smalling to participate in later games in Oslo, Gothenburg and Hannover, a fractured metatarsal will now cost him at least the opening months of the season proper.
"It is a setback," said Sir Alex Ferguson, who is also uncertain of the recoveries from surgery of Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans. "With a metatarsal you're looking at between ten weeks and three months.."
The added-time goal that prevented United succumbing to an Ajax Cape Town side without a win in their preparations for South Africa's league season came from a man recovering from a serious injury of his own.
Loaned out to Besiktas last season after an ill-disciplined year at Old Trafford, Bebe ruptured his cruciate ligament on international duty, then found himself excluded from training for breaking a club curfew.
Acquired from Vitoria Guimaraes at for a hefty fee of €9 million two years previously, his goal earned United a 1-1 draw.
"He went on loan and then got that bad injury which kept him out for the whole season," said Ferguson.
"He started training with us on July 5 and I think probably this was first game for about eight months.
"We'll see how the season progresses for him. It does give me a headache in terms of the number of strikers I've got up there, but that's not the biggest problem."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE