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Manchester United striker Javier Hernández escapes with bruised shin after ‘shocking’ challenge from Ashley Cole

Javier Hernández has escaped a lengthy lay-off as a result of the Ashley Cole challenge described as “shocking” by Sir Alex Ferguson.


The Manchester United forward is understood to have suffered a bruised shin, rather than ligament damage, during Sunday’s victory against Chelsea.

Hernández, who was able to walk off the pitch following the 77th-minute incident in United’s 3-1 win, is expected to be out for two weeks and will miss Tuesday night’s Carling Cup tie at Leeds, as well as the forthcoming fixtures against Stoke City, Basle and Norwich City.

With the Mexican already discounted from Ferguson’s plans for the trip to Elland Road because of the United manager’s determination to rotate his squad, Dimitar Berbatov is set to be handed his first start of the season against Simon Grayson’s Championship outfit.

The Bulgarian, United’s £30.75 million record signing, has managed just 36 minutes of first-team action this season after being overlooked in favour of Hernández and 20-year-old Danny Welbeck as Wayne Rooney’s strike partner so far this campaign.

Having been left out of United’s squad for the Champions League final defeat against Barcelona at Wembley in May, Berbatov’s Old Trafford future had been a subject of doubt during the summer and the club have yet to decide whether to extend the 30 year-old’s contract beyond its expiry date next June.

Ferguson has insisted that the former Tottenham striker will be given an opportunity to contribute this season, yet it appears as though the Carling Cup currently offers Berbatov his only likely route into the team.

Berbatov’s languid and unhurried style of play jars with the free-flowing football being played by United this season, but Ferguson is expected to pair the striker with Federico Macheda and Michael Owen at Leeds.

With Chris Smalling ruled out for two weeks with a groin injury, Antonio Valencia is set to play at right-back, with Anders Lindegaard replacing the rested David de Gea in goal.

And Ferguson is ready to reward French midfielder Paul Pogba with his first-team debut at Elland Road following the 18 year-old’s impressive performances in United’s FA Youth Cup success last season.

Ferguson said: “Paul has a slight injury, but it’s not too bad. He wasn’t available for Sunday, but he should be able to play on Tuesday and I intend to play him against Leeds.

“We prefer to keep him with us until we find he’s mature enough to possibly go on loan. Maybe next year that could be an option but we’re definitely expecting him this season to stay with Manchester United.”

Grayson has insisted that Tuesday night’s clash against United and the renewal of the two clubs’ rivalry takes second billing to the priority of promotion back to the Premier League.

“For me, and everybody else at Leeds, the most important thing is getting this club back into the top flight so we can play the Manchester Uniteds of this world on a regular basis,” said Grayson.

“Leeds have been out of the top flight for seven years now, and we want to be back there as soon as possible.

“But there is a big rivalry between Leeds and Manchester United which goes back a lot of years, so any game against them must be high on our list of priorities because of what it means to our fans.”

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