Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick could be out of action until Christmas as he battles an Achilles injury, the club confirmed on Wednesday.
Carrick, 32, has started all but two of United's Premier League and Champions League fixtures this season and has again been their most consistent player in the centre of the park. But after he was forced to pull out of the England squad on Tuesday for the friendlies against Chile and Germany he now faces an extended period on the sidelines of between four and six weeks.
The loss of Carrick until the festive programme would be a major blow for manager David Moyes who, according to the Guardian, is hoping to tie the player down to a new two-year contract in the near future. Carrick's current deal expires in the summer and Moyes is hopeful of persuading the United hierarchy to abandon their policy of only giving players aged 30 and over a 12-month extension.
Carrick has already insisted that he sees his future at Old Trafford, stating last month. "I'd love to carry on playing as long as possible at this club. It's a fantastic club and I've had great times here. I feel good at the moment. I've just turned 32, so I've got a bit of time yet."
United face Champions League games against Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Donetsk as they look to secure their place in the knockout rounds, plus face Premier League matches against Cardiff City, Spurs, Everton, Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Ham before Christmas arrives - as well as a Capital One Cup quarter-final at Stoke City.
The absence of Carrick is likely to mean 27.5 million pound capture Marouane Fellaini will have to step up and take his chance in the team, having started only two Premier League fixtures so far since his move to Old Trafford from Everton two months ago.
A 16 million pound signing from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2006, Carrick has won over many of his critics after being a largely unsung hero of the United side in recent seasons. He finally gained recognition for his performances when he was nominated for the PFA Players' Player of the Year Award earlier in April, although he did not make the top three in voting which was topped by Gareth Bale, and was in the Premier League team of the season -- as well as being named Manchester United's Players' Player of the Year.
He made his England debut in an international friendly victory over Mexico in May 2001 but has won only 30 more caps over 12 years since making his bow.