Sir Alex Ferguson has cast doubt over the long term future of Owen Hargreaves after the Manchester United manager revealed the midfielder had travelled to Germany to see a specialist regarding his latest injury.
Hargreaves has made two fleeting appearances since he last completed a full competitive game for United in September 2008. The England international's latest comeback against Wolverhampton Wanderers last month lasted just six minutes before he limped off with a hamstring strain.
Hargreaves, signed from German giants Bayern Munich for £17million four years ago, will be 30 when his United contract runs out at the end of this season and Ferguson admitted today there had been no talks over a possible new deal for the player.
"It's not something that we are thinking about at this moment in time," said Ferguson, on the eve of United's final UEFA Champions League Group C game with Valencia at Old Trafford.
"He's gone to Munich to see a specialist over there. I think we are all concerned that he hasn't played for over two years. I think we would have to be super-optimistic to think everything is going to be rosy for him in terms of him making a comeback," Ferguson added.
"What we're trying to do is help the lad. That in itself is our biggest challenge, trying to help him get back to a level where he can play football. Can he fight this? He has to."
Both United and Spanish opponents Valencia are aleady through to the last 16 of the Champions League. But tomorrow's match is not a totally dead rubber as it will decide the winners of Group C and spare the table-toppers a match against one of Europe's big guns.
All to play for
Should Valencia win, then United could face Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the next round. If United avoid defeat and secure top spot, then they will escape a fixture against one of their main rivals.
For that reason Ferguson is promising to field a strong side even though his team's next two domestic fixtures, against leaders Arsenal and champions Chelsea, could shape the race for the Premier League title.
"I want us to finish top and so avoid some of the big guns that have emerged and will be drawn against the second-placed teams in the knockout phase," added Ferguson, still without long-term absentees Michael Owen, who has returned to training, and Antonio Valencia.
"It's comforting to know we have already secured our place in the next round but I don't want us sitting back content with just getting through. We need a draw to make sure we finish above Valencia. Losing would put us level on points but we have to remember that our rivals have a better goal difference after hitting six past Bursaspor. We don't know how to play for a draw, so we will be going for it as usual."