Jonny Evans apologises but Stuart Holden will be out for six months

Jonny Evans apologises but Stuart Holden will be out for six monthsManchester United's Jonny Evans has called Stuart Holden to offer a personal apology over the tackle which will keep the Bolton Wanderers player out of action for six months.

Holden needed 26 stitches in his knee following the ugly clash during Bolton's visit to Old Trafford on Saturday. It was confirmed on Monday that the United States international will miss the remainder of this season – including Bolton's FA Cup semi-final against Stoke City – and the opening of the new campaign.

Holden travelled to London for surgery on Monday afternoon, before which he revealed on Twitter that Evans had telephoned him after hearing the diagnosis. "Just had a sincere phone call from Jonny Evans wishing me the best in my recovery, def [sic] wasn't intentional, just unfortunate part of the game," Holden said.

The 25-year-old, who recovered from a broken leg last year, had earlier vowed to return to full fitness as soon as possible. "I can promise you all I will come back stronger and better than before," he said. "Have had bad luck in the past and will continue to beat it." Bolton have refused to condemn Evans for the tackle. Their manager, Owen Coyle, said: "First and foremost our main concern is for Stuart and his recovery. He will get all the time and support that he needs.

"Stuart has been outstanding for me this season and he has shown in his performances that he is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. He has such desire, strength of character and a winning mentality, and he will draw on all those attributes in his rehabilitation."

Evans, too, will be forced to sit out a FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City after the Football Association confirmed the Northern Irela§nd international will serve an automatic three-match ban on account of what is termed violent conduct.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be unable to call on the defender for the Premier League visit to West Ham United on 2 April, the home game with Fulham a week later and the semi-final against City on 16 April. That will cause further anxiety to the manager, who has had considerable defensive selection troubles in recent weeks.

With Rio Ferdinand, Rafael da Silva and John O'Shea injured, Wes Brown being removed at half-time against Bolton because of a calf problem and Nemanja Vidic in the process of recovery from a similar ailment, Ferguson's worst scenario is that Chris Smalling is his only available senior centre-half for the trip to Upton Park, where United will be aiming to keep a five-point advantage over Arsenal at the top of the league. United are hopeful, though, that intense work with Vidic will see him return to full fitness in time to line up against West Ham.

Ferdinand has also used Twitter to offer his views on the tackle on Holden, passing on his best wishes to the midfielder while defending Evans. "I hope Holden is OK," Ferdinand said. "A honest solid tackle between him and Evans and Evans gets a red card. I don't agree at all."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray, for The Guardian on Monday 21st March 2011 18.03 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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