MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United winger Ashley Young is fit for Sunday’s Premier League match at home to Everton after recovering from a knee injury, manager Alex Ferguson said on Friday.
Midfielder Michael Carrick is also available while defender Phil Jones should have shaken off a bout of shingles that also bothered Ferguson, who was annoyed that news of the illness had been made public by England under-21 coach Stuart Pearce.
“We thought it was a doctor’s confidence so we are disappointed in that, it’s not anything serious for the boy, it’s mild condition, he should be OK,” Ferguson told a news conference.
The return of Young, who was injured against Liverpool on January 13, is a major boost for United at the start of a busy week in which Ferguson’s side travel to Real Madrid for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.
The side then host Reading in an FA Cup fifth round match on February 18.
Before those two dates there is Everton, who are flying high in fifth and whose fightback in a thrilling 4-4 draw in this fixture last season proved costly for United, who lost out on the title on goal difference to Manchester City.
“(We were) 4-2 up with seven or eight minutes to go, it was unexpected and you’ve got to anticipate unexpected in the run-in but that was a bad blow for us,” Ferguson said.
“That definitely cost us the league, there is no question of that. That will never happen again.”
United have a nine-point lead over Manchester City with 62 points from 25 games although by the time they host David Moyes’ side on Sunday (1600 GMT) the gap could have been narrowed as the champions play at Southampton the day before.
Everton are 20 points behind Ferguson’s side and involved in the tussle for a top-four finish and the lucrative business of Champions League football despite a much smaller budget than many teams around them.
Ferguson was full of praise for the job fellow Scot David Moyes had done in more than a decade at Everton.
“David Moyes has got a very strong unit at Everton, very experienced and their record - they’ve only lost three games this season,” he said.
Inspired by the goals of Marouane Fellaini, who headed in the winner in the 1-0 victory over United at Goodison Park on the opening weekend of the season and has netted 10 times in the league this term, Everton pose a stiff test for United.
”They are a difficult opponent,“ Ferguson said. ”They have got a genuine chance of finishing in the top four.
“I think the race for the title is between ourselves and City but after that you’ve got Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Everton and even now Liverpool.”
Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by John O'Brien