Jonny Evans has revealed he will probably need an operation to solve an ankle problem that has plagued him since Christmas.
It has not been decided when the young Manchester United defender will have surgery but Evans knows he cannot carry on playing with pain-killers forever.
"At some point my ankle will need surgery," said the 22-year-old.
"It is a problem that has been bothering me since Christmas. We thought it might have gone away over the summer but it is still there."
He added: "Every now and again I catch it and it will be quite sore for a while. Then the pain dies off after a week or so."
As a short-term measure, the anaesthetic seems to be working.
The Northern Ireland star was able to get through 34 games last season - including the Carling Cup final - and the first two this year when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been out injured.
However, the return of Vidic after he suffered a calf injury prior to a pre-season game in Munich, plus the availability of Wes Brown, means the Belfast-born defender may not be required against Wigan at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
Ferdinand is out, though, with Evans acknowledging the 30-year-old's absence for another four weeks is a major blow.
"Rio is a good leader, a very good defender and a great player," he said. "He is a big character who brings a lot to the team when he is playing."