Middlesbrough's Emanuel Pogatetz telephoned Manchester United's young Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Possebon yesterday to apologise for the challenge which saw the 19-year-old taken off on a stretcher during his debut on Tuesday night, taking oxygen and with his leg in splints.
There was a collective sigh of relief around Old Trafford yesterday morning when it emerged that the holding midfielder had not, as feared, broken his right leg in the collision which saw Boro captain Pogatetz sent off. Further tests will establish whether the player, who contributed to United winning the midfield battle, has suffered ligament damage.
Pogatetz said yesterday that he thought he could win the ball when he made the 65th-minute challenge – he did, indeed, make contact – but had since realised he had "misjudged the challenge". The Austrian also explained his protests about his own dismissal, an aspect of his conduct in Middlesbrough's 3-1 defeat which angered Sir Alex Ferguson. "Immediately after the incident I did not think it was a red card offence because I did win the ball," the 25-year-old said.
"But now that I have had the chance to see the tackle on the TV, I know the ref was right to send me off. I hope that he [Possebon] will make a quick recovery and that he will not be out for long."
Southgate saw the seriousness of his player's offence immediately and though Boro reinforced the point yesterday that the player, who faces a three-match ban, had not been sent off before in his three years on Riverside, there is sure to be a conversation about what former Boro and United central defender Gary Pallister described as "that part to his [Pogatetz's] game [where] he likes to steam into tackles." There is a view among some on Teesside that the player attempts to make up in commitment what he lacks in technical ability. He never, ever, gives less than 300 per cent in performance," Steve McClaren once said of him.
It was during his final game on loan from Bayer Leverkusen at Spartak Moscow that Pogatetz tackled Yaroslav Kharitonskiy, leaving the Russian with a double leg fracture which led the Russian Football Association to ban him for 24 weeks.
There is a feeling around Old Trafford that the comfortable win over an experienced looking Boro desperate to recapture the trophy which remains their only piece of silverware, marks the start of United's season. "It was a tough start but we didn't play well at the beginning of the season," said Ryan Giggs, United's captain and arguably man of the match. "I think over the last week or so – Villarreal, the first half at Chelsea and especially against Middlesbrough – we showed some really good stuff. This team is capable of going on a winning run of 10 games so hopefully that has started tonight and we can carry it on against Bolton on Saturday." Ferguson will have been particularly encouraged by the contribution of Anderson, anonymous at Anfield and not even on the bench at Stamford Bridge, but a powerful influence on Tuesday. He has looked out of sorts since returning from Olympic duty with Brazil and Ferguson believes he is now ready.
* Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has bolstered his squad by signing Brazilian midfielder Mineiro until the end of the season. The 33-year-old, who has won 24 caps, was a free agent having been released by Hertha Berlin at the end of last season. Chelsea have been short of defensive midfield cover with Claude Makelele having left the club in the summer and Michael Essien sidelined with a serious knee injury. "He is a player that I need because I lost Michael Essien for six months. I have one midfielder like him, John Obi Mikel," Scolari said.