Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Phil Jones has only an 'outside chance' of being fit for Manchester United's Champions League clash with Real Madrid on March 5.
Jones suffered an ankle injury during Monday's FA Cup win over Reading and is having intense treatment in the hope of being available for the Old Trafford encounter.
"We are working very hard. He has an outside chance for Real Madrid - no more than that," Ferguson said.
Jones will certainly miss Saturday's trip to QPR, and Ferguson knows his absence from the Real Madrid game would cause him a headache given how well the former Blackburn man performed in the first leg last week.
"He is a young man who went into a tackle too brave and was a bit off-balanced," said Ferguson. "He certainly won't be fit for the weekend."
Ferguson reported everyone else has come through Monday's encounter without a problem. The Scot repeated his mantra that, with United 12 points clear of Manchester City with 12 games remaining in the Barclays Premier League, destiny is very much in their own hands.
"The only way we can approach it is by taking care of each game and eventually we run out of matches," Ferguson said. "I can understand from Manchester City's point of view why they are talking about us dropping points. But the fact of the matter is they will drop them as well."
It was also the first time Ferguson had spoken publicly since David Gill announced his intention to stand down as chief executive. The United boss has had a close working relationship with Gill, who apparently mooted his exit some time ago.
"David spoke to me about it some weeks ago," Ferguson said.
"I was surprised because he is still a young man but I understand where he is coming from. Sixteen years in that particular job is not easy."