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Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to turn to Cristiano Ronaldo to fire Manchester United back into the Premier League title race after seeing his team lose Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick in a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool.

A Wes Brown own goal and late strike from Ryan Babel overturned Carlos Tevez's third minute opener to hand Liverpool their first league victory over United for four years.

United were out-fought and out-thought by a Liverpool team without both Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and both injured midfielder Carrick and Vidic, who was shown a late red card, are now set to miss the trip to Chelsea next Sunday.

But Portuguese winger Ronaldo, who has yet to play for United since openly courting a move to Real Madrid, is on course to return against the Londonders after two months on the sidelines following ankle surgery.


Ferguson said: "Ronaldo is training now, he's with the first team and he's aiming to be a substitute at Chelsea on September 21. He's come on leaps and bounds.

"I think we mentioned a couple of weeks ago he was making rapid progress in terms of overcoming the injury problem he had and the training he's been doing with the physios and Tony Strudwick the fitness coach.

"He's been making great strides in the direction towards first-team football."

United sorely need the 23-year-old to return following their pale display at Anfield that leaves them facing problems in their bid to retain the league title.

Ferguson admitted that his team's performance was way below expectations.

"When you score after three minutes, you should be consolidating that, but we never won a tackle and you have to hand it to Liverpool," Ferguson said.

"When you have bad days, the big thing is to get something from them, but we conceded two goals that were absolute shockers. People will say that it is some Conference team defending when they see us on television. It was shocking stuff.

"The first was a really scabby goal to lose. Liverpool have had a bit of fortune with both goals, but they have deserved their luck, you can't deny that.

"They won every tackle and we just didn't respond to it. With our great record here, Liverpool raised their game an extra level."

Vidic's sending off for two bookings rules him out of the Chelsea clash and Carrick is now set to miss both the Champions League meeting with Villarreal and the trip to Stamford Bridge after damaging his ankle against Liverpool.

Ferguson added: "We don't think that Michael's injury is too serious and we don't think it is broken. He has had an x-ray on it and we will investigate it further over the weekend and then see where we go. But I wouldn't think that he'll be available on Wednesday.

"Vida certainly led with his elbow, but all defenders lead with their elbow nowadays. (Jamie) Carragher leads with his elbow all the time, but he never gets a free-kick given against him."

Carragher, who captain Liverpool in the absence of Gerrard, admitted that beating United has given Liverpool a massive confidence boost.

He said: "For too long, we have been off the pace against the likes of United and Chelsea, but this win gives us some breathing space over United.

"It has put us top of the league for while, and that is where a club like Liverpool should be. It can only give us confidence when you beat the best side in Europe."
 

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CarlitoTevez said:
Ferguson said: "Ronaldo is training now, he's with the first team and he's aiming to be a substitute at Chelsea on September 21.
He'll not be playing againts Villareal?:confused:
 
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