Nigel Worthington has come to Manchester United's rescue by agreeing to let Jonny Evans return to Old Trafford for treatment, rather than risk aggravating a slight ankle injury against Israel at Windsor Park tonight.
With Nemanja Vidic already ruled out of Sunday's opening Barclays Premier League game with Birmingham, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was eager to safeguard Evans' fitness and ensure he was able to continue alongside Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the champions' defence.
Evans has trained with the rest of the Northern Ireland squad ahead of their World Cup warm-up game, but Worthington went along with a request from United and allowed the Belfast youngster to fly back to Manchester this morning.
Stephen Craigan will partner Aaron Hughes in the middle of defence, with Chris Baird and George McCartney filling the full-back roles.
Rangers midfielder Steve Davis is a surprise absentee from the starting line-up, but record goalscorer David Healy will win his 75th cap, despite suggestions he may be rested after failing to hit the target in Northern Ireland's last five games.
Northern Ireland: Taylor; Baird, Craigan, Hughes, McCartney; Johnson, Clingan, McCann, Brunt; Lafferty, Healy.