Wayne Rooney will miss the start of the Premier League season after contracting a virus during Manchester United's pre-season trip to Nigeria, manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed on Tuesday.
The striker has felt too weak to train since United returned from Africa last week and Ferguson expects to be without the England star in Sunday's Community Shield clash against Portsmouth and also their Premier League opener against Newcastle on 17 August.
With Cristiano Ronaldo already sidelined for several weeks after ankle surgery, Rooney's absence is a major blow for Ferguson heading into the new campaign.
"I doubt if we'll get Rooney fit for the start of the season with the virus he's had," said Ferguson. "It's a virus he picked up in Nigeria and it's not a nice one, but quite a few have had it. It's such a bad virus and he's got to be training to be fit."
Ferguson, who insisted Rooney was not suffering from malaria, now has only Carlos Tevez, Louis Saha and Fraizer Campbell to choose his forward line from.
"The players had malaria tablets and injections before we went to Africa, but Wayne has come back and it has knocked him sideways," he said.
Rooney's illness, which has not resulted in hospital treatment, has left Ferguson with a mounting player crisis.
Anderson is already ruled out due to Olympic duty and Nani is suspended. There remain doubts over the fitness of defender Gary Neville and midfielders Owen Hargreaves and Ji-Sung Park, neither of whom have appeared so far in pre-season.
Ferguson added: "Michael Carrick has also had the virus, but maybe he will get part of the game against Portsmouth on Sunday.
"It's all been about injuries and viruses at the moment and I'm wondering if I am going to have a team to start the season! Apart from Wayne, Nani is suspended and Anderson is off to the Olympics."
United, who face Juventus at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, continue to dismiss speculation linking Ronaldo with Real Madrid and Ferguson insisted again on Tuesday that the Portuguese forward, who is due to return to the club later this week, will not be leaving Manchester.
He said: "I'm not getting into that because it's finished. He's staying here, he's a Manchester United player, believe me."
Meanwhile, Ferguson has revealed that he is hopeful of naming a successor to Carlos Queiroz, his former assistant manager, by the end of September.
"We will take our time as we always do, but maybe in this situation we will be a bit quicker this time around," he said. "We will hopefully have somebody in place by the end of September. It takes times when trying to replace good men, but we are fortunate in that we already have a lot of good coaches here anyway.
"I'm just looking for a certain type of person, though, who can do the role. He doesn't necessarily need to speak Portuguese, but perhaps it would be a box ticked if he can speak languages."