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SIR ALEX FERGUSON has confirmed Roy Keane will not start Tuesday's Champions League clash with Panathinaikos, but an injury crisis could see the Irishman placed on the bench.

An ankle injury forced Keane off at half-time of the win over Charlton on Saturday, and Ferguson is eager to rest his skipper with one eye on next week's Premiership showdown with Arsenal.

However, Ferguson is definitely without Paul Scholes and Wes Brown, and with Mikael Silvestre nursing a knock - Keane could be thrust into an emergency substitute's role.

"Roy is out, it is unfortunate," confirmed Ferguson. "He has not recovered from the ankle injury on Saturday.

"It is not serious, but nonetheless, he will not be risked.

"He could have played on Wednesday, but there is no point in risking him.

"Mikael is also a doubt, we will check on him in the morning, but if he is out Roy could be on the bench."

Keane is confident he will be out for only a few days.

The Irishman commented: "It is frustrating picking up any injury, missing games, but we have a big squad and we have to look at the bigger picture and hopefully it will only be a few days."

Paul Scholes' hernia problem is clearly causing concern at Old Trafford, as Ferguson added: "Having had the two hernia operations in the past, there was a concern that it could be a longer delay.

"We are still contemplating what to do but will make a decision soon."

Despite having a number of injury worries, Ferguson does not seem too worried about the situation at the moment.

"It is similar to last season," he continued. "We have one or two injuries, three midfielders are out, Wes Brown is out and that is why I am hopeful Mikael Silvestre will be fit.

"I don't think we were terribly short. To score five goals in a quarter final you expect to be in a semi-final, simple as that," he added in reference to last season's exit at the hands of Real Madrid.

"There were some soft goals in Madrid and if we had maintained our defensive strength from the rest of the season we would have been in the next round."

Portuguese youngster Cristiano Ronaldo commanded a few headlines over the weekend, with certain Charlton players accusing him of diving.

However, Ferguson has jumped to the defence of the starlet - questioning the legitimacy of some of the Charlton players' tackles.

"It is easy to say that (he dived)," added Ferguson. "I have seen some of the tackles and I can tell you Atlas would have gone down under some of those challenges."

The Scot did, though, admit he is worried by the way some players are going over too easily.

He added: "I did not think Ronaldo was diving. But we have seen evidence over the weekend of others and it is a problem."

More to follow...