Neville out of FA Cup final
Gary Neville has lost his fight for FA Cup final fitness.
Sir Alex Ferguson had vowed to give the Manchester United captain every chance of featuring against Chelsea on Saturday.
However, after attempting a return to football training on Monday, it quickly became apparant the ankle injury he suffered against Bolton on March 17 was still too sore to let him play.
So, instead of leading United out at the 'new' Wembley, the 32-year-old will be recovering from exploratory surgery to determine the exact nature of the problem.
Neville has already missed 14 games of United's run-in, including the Champions League semi-final defeat to AC Milan, so it is nothing new for Ferguson to be without his skipper, who donned his famous number two shirt on Sunday to lift the Premiership trophy with Ryan Giggs after the home defeat to West Ham.
Ferguson will choose between Wes Brown and John O'Shea to replace Neville. But while the Scot has options, Neville's injury blow is more serious for England coach Steve McClaren.
Already without Manchester City's Micah Richards, who has had calf surgery, McClaren now faces the June 1 friendly with Brazil and, more importantly, the Euro 2008 qualifier in Estonia the following week with his two right-backs unavailable.
It always seemed highly unlikely Neville would make the Chelsea game and with Louis Saha also set to miss out, the United boss at least will be able to formulate his side to face the Londoners early as he looks to complete an unprecedented fourth domestic double.
Cristiano Ronaldo will certainly be key to Ferguson's victory plans and further confirmation of the Portugal international's inspired season came at a plush awards ceremony at Old Trafford last night when he added the United fans and players' player of the year trophies to the PFA and FWA awards.
With his first Premiership title won too, the 22-year-old winger has certainly had a campaign to remember.
But if anyone thinks the Portugal superstar will be satisfied with one season of immense glory, they have got it badly wrong.
'We all want more trophies,' he told MUTV.
'I have waited a few years to win the Premier League but now we have done it once, we want to win it again.
'I am at a great club, with great players. We should be looking to win something every year.
'This season is not over yet either. We still have a chance to win the double and, while you can never say who will win any match, the confidence in the team is high and I believe we have a good chance.'
The major challenge posed by Chelsea may be looming this weekend, yet Ferguson continues to plot for next year, aware Jose Mourinho will be strengthening his team and both Arsenal and Liverpool will be stronger too,
He has already held a couple of discussions with chief executive David Gill over potential targets and although club officials have refused to confirm speculation emerging from Germany over an £18million deal for Owen Hargreaves, it would be a major surprise if the England midfielder did not join the Red Devils once his Bundesliga commitments with Bayern Munich are completed this weekend.
As well as looking for three new players, Ferguson is also determining the futures of the many youngsters he has loaned out this term.
Gerard Pique has already been informed he will be coming back from Real Zaragoza, while fellow central defender Jonny Evans is due to meet Ferguson after his superb contribution to Sunderland's Premiership promotion under Roy Keane.
Ferguson will also attempt to retain the services of 20-year-old Giuseppe Rossi, who has netted an impressive nine goals in 17 matches to help guide Parma to the brink of safety in Serie A, a tally which may yet persuade the United manager he does not need to break the bank in order to bolster his attacking options.