· Thank you Sir Alex
Manchester United and England star Owen Hargreaves faces up to six months on the sidelines after agreeing to have an operation to cure a long-standing knee condition.
United have decided to put their Â£18million midfielder under the knife after a course of injections to manage the tendinitis in his knee failed to resolve the problem.
Besides missing the vast majority of United's Premier League and Champions League games, it means the 27-year-old is also almost certainly out of England's key World Cup qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley on April 1.
A source said: 'The doctors hoped the injections would help the problem but everyone has accepted now it needs another approach. 'Owen has been very down but is hopeful this will help the problem in the long term. United paid a lot of money for Owen so there is pressure for him to do well. But his injury has stopped him showing what he can do.'
Canadian-born Hargreaves, who last played on September 21, against Chelsea, has endured a stop-start career at United since arriving from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2007.
He missed most of the first half of last season with his troublesome knee but returned to play a major part in United eventually winning the Premier League and Champions League double.
He was arguably United's man of the match in the famous Champions League final victory against Chelsea in Moscow.
However, this season has been a disaster with the tigerish midfield player appearing only three times for United and failing to play for England after Fabio Capello publicly declared him a central part of his plans.
Having chased Hargreaves for more than a year, manager Sir Alex Ferguson had hoped Hargreaves could avoid a long lay-off from an operation.
But the player has continued to be bothered by discomfort in his knee and all sides have now accepted it was the best long-term option.
Newcastle and England legend Alan Shearer missed several months of the 2000-01 season to have two operations for his knee tendinitis and returned to play at the top level until he was 36.
With Hargreaves now out for a substantial period, Sir Alex Ferguson has pencilled in the FIFA Club World Cup for Paul Scholes' return from a knee injury. It takes place in Japan in December.