Sir Alex Ferguson is crossing his fingers Rio Ferdinand will be fit for next Sunday's Premier League title showdown with Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Ferdinand has already been ruled out of Manchester United's FA Cup trip to Southampton this weekend and Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final with Derby after suffering back spasms before the Boxing Day win over Stoke.
The 30-year-old has still not returned to training but Ferguson remains hopeful his former record signing will be able to face the Blues after more intensive treatment this week.
Long-term, Ferguson feels the England vice-captain will benefit from extra physio and gym work aimed at combating a problem that has recurred too frequently this season for United's liking.
"It is not a major one but it has reared its head a few times this season," said the Red Devils chief.
"It can happen with athletes and at the moment we are managing it the best we can, hoping Rio will be ready for Sunday's game at Chelsea.
"We are giving it time to settle but the work we are doing is geared towards making his back more supple so there is more resilience to what is happening. That is why the work he does in the gym is important."
In the meantime, Jonny Evans will continue to act as Ferdinand's deputy, with Gary Neville possibly filling a central defensive berth at Pride Park next week.