Sir Alex Ferguson fears that John O'Shea may not be fit enough to return to first-team action for Manchester United until March.
The Republic of Ireland international is struggling to recover from a thigh injury which he sustained during his country's World Cup play-off defeat to France in Paris.
"There is no sign at all of recovery for John," said Ferguson.
"It is his first injury at the club and he is a big loss because he is such a versatile player.
"We just want to get him back but it could be a couple of months yet."
However, Jonny Evans is close to a return, with Ferguson adding:"Jonny has been involved in the football side for a few days.
"He is doing well and should be back quicker, within the next ten days or so.
"Rio (Ferdinand) is nowhere near that but the main thing is there is no recurrence of the back problem. That is what we have been waiting for.
"We wanted him to come through the test of running and turning. He is doing his programme in the gymnasium, which is good and at the moment it is looking very healthy."