Manchester United whose preparations for the new season could hardly have got any worse have been hit by another injury blow, this time to defender Wes Brown.

United, who have already lost record signing Rio Ferdinand for the start of the season, saw Brown limp off with a suspected broken ankle during last night”s shock 1-0 Champions League qualifier defeat to Hungarian champions Zalaegerszeg.

The centre-half joins Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville in the treatment room and boss Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that he fears the worst. “It’s a bad one,’ he said. ‘He’ll have a scan in the morning.”

Last night’s defeat, attributed by Ferguson to among other things a poor pitch and bad refereeing, means the club face an uphill struggle to qualify for the Champions League proper.

“The pitch was very bumpy and it meant that it didn’t help our passing game,’ said Ferguson. ‘I also hope that we have a better referee for the next game.’

Nonetheless, skipper Roy Keane, who has endured a miserable week courtesy of the sensational revelations from his forthcoming autobiography, sounded a defiant note when discussing United’s prospects for the second leg.

“I can’t imagine us not qualifying, but it will boil down to hard work for 90 minutes,” Keane told the Manchester Evening News.

“It would have been nice to get an away goal, but we didn’t and it’s up to the players to put that right. We have a second chance in a couple of weeks and hopefully we can make up for it then.

“They played okay, but it’s upto our players now. If we play well on the night – no matter who we are playing – we will win.”