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United will arrive at St Mary's on Sunday without Rio Ferdinand and Carlos Tevez for the Reds' FA Cup third round tie against Southampton.

Sir Alex told press on Friday that Ferdinand is still struggling with the back injury he sustained in the warm-up at Stoke on Boxing Day, while Carlos Tevez will not return from Argentina in time for kick-off.

“Unfortunately Rio's still not training and we're trying to give it time to settle," the boss said. "We're managing it the best we can.

"He certainly won't be playing in the next two games but hopefully we'll have him ready for Chelsea next Sunday. By that time it will have hopefully settled down and he'll be available for the big one against Chelsea.

“The work we're doing at the moment is geared towards making his back more supple and there's more resilience to the problem. The work he does in the gym is important.â€

Ferguson also admitted he had not yet decided whether Cristiano Ronaldo would face Southampton.

“I may not play him on Sunday,†Sir Alex said. “We'll see. We've got a big month in January and we'll navigate that month with the 23 players I have.

“Those 23 are going to have to play a part, particularly in the game against Southampton and the two legs against Derby [in the Carling Cup semi-final].

“The teams at Southampton and Derby will be different, for example.â€

Southampton may be languishing towards the bottom of the Championship table, but
Sir Alex says his side won't take victory for granted on Sunday. The FA Cup is, after all, renowned for throwing up surprises.

“It's a different kind of competition and one that requires luck too, you have to remember thatâ€, he said.

“You can be dominating a game and get one break against you, as we did last year against Portsmouth in the quarter-final. There was a breakaway and a penalty kick, our keeper was sent off and we're out of the cup. That's what cup football is.

“It's sudden death and anything can happen. We always say: ‘Give us a home draw against anyone'. We've not got a home draw, Southampton have got that and it's an advantage to them.

“But it's a good stadium and a nice pitch. They're a young team, their coach has done a great job cnsidering he's not got any money to work with and he's having to make do with young players. I expect an interesting game.â€
 
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