Sam Allardyce faces a concern over his defensive options ahead of Wednesday's visit of Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Already without Winston Reid and George McCartney due to thigh and knee injuries, Big Sam watched James Tomkins limp out of the action during Saturday's 1-1 draw at Southampton.

WIth cover thin on the ground, Allardyce is calling on his players to rise to the challenge of facing Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Let's start with the injury news. How's James Tomkins?

SA: "Our biggest concern injury-wise is with the defence. Winston Reid, James Tomkins and George McCartney leaves us a little thin on the ground for selection of defensive players.

"If none of them make it, Emanuel Pogatetz has to come into the team, and that leaves only young cover there which is slightly concerning when we've got three games in a week. That's young Danny Potts and Jordan Spence, we haven't got anyone else defensively but it's life sometimes that when you've had a particularly good period, injuries then take their toll.

"And instead of the injuries being spread through the team, they're all in one area, which obviously causes us more concern than if it had been one in midfield, one up front and one defensively. Mark Noble will be close to getting back but obviously the main concern at the moment is defensive bodies available for Wednesday."

It's not as if you need your best defenders available for Manchester United...

SA: "Not at all. Not after watching them professionally win on Sunday. It's what you would call a thoroughly professional performance, where after scoring the first goal the result never looked in any doubt. Counter attacking football is one of the great arts of Manchester United and you saw what they did when they counter attacked to get the penalty for the second goal.

"We'll need to be on our best form, as always, if we are to get anything. We've run them close three times this season, so we hope that's the same again on Wednesday night. Hopefully we can give as good a performance as we gave in the last three.

They're going to win the title by quite a big margin it would seem. Where do you stand on this debate about how good this Man United team is?

SA: "Well I think you have to say it's as good as it's ever been because nobody normally wins the title so easily and by so big a margin, or has this much of a margin at this stage of the season. It's pretty scary what total they might actually finish with. I hope we can dent that a little bit on Wednesday night for us because Sunderland having won against Newcastle, and with all the bottom sides seeming to be picking up more points now than they have done for the rest of the seaosn, we're still another couple of points off being absolutely safe I'd say.

"Man United have been outstanding and it's been about how their squad rotation has been his masterpiece as usual, about playing the right team at the right time. I suppose you could say that because they got knocked out of the Champions League a little sooner than usual and because they got knocked out of the FA Cup and Capital One Cup, it's given them the strength and energy to be what they are in the Barclays Premier League this year.

"Because they haven't had the normal focus on three or four competitions almost to the end, the focus has come on the Premier League and they've just breezed it. They've just gone bang and everyone else can't get near them."

You talk about needing a couple more points for safety, but Mr Gold has been tweeting about a top-ten finish. What are your thoughts about that?

SA: "I think that's probably a hard one now. We have got four home games and two away, so we have an opportunity, but I think we're going to have to win three and draw two out of the last six [to get into the top ten].

"Something like that might get us there. Man City away and Everton away are tough, tough games as well as Man United at home. In fact they'll all be tough, even Wigan who are now in a position, because of being in the FA Cup final, that they have games to catch up and points to gain on others. That puts the pressure on them, so they'll all be really tough matches but hopefully we can win a couple and see where we go."

Wigan Athletic