UNITED have a defensive headache ahead of their Premier League opener against Birmingham on Sunday.
With Nemanja Vidic already ruled out, stand-in Jonny Evans returned from Northern Ireland duty with an ankle problem.
And, with Reds boss Sir Alex Ferguson already denied the services of young full-back Rafael and Wes Brown and Gary Neville also strggling for fitness, the champions face a race to get him ready for action.
Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington left the young centre-half out of the team that drew 1-1 with Israel at Windsor Park on Thursday night to allow him to return to United for treatment.
“There was no way I was going to risk him from our point of view,” said Worthington.
“With him being in and around the first team, I wasn”t going to risk him with Manchester United either. Jonny trained extremely well on Monday and Tuesday but woke up with a stiff ankle on the day of the game.”
Goalkeeper Ben Foster is also battling to be fit after withdrawing from the England squad earlier this week with a minor injury. First choice Edwin Van der Sar is already ruled out for up to two months with a broken hand.
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