World Cup blow for Hargreaves
Owen Hargreaves' World Cup hopes are in doubt after being left out of Manchester United's squad for the UEFA Champions League knock-out stages.
The England midfielder has not played since September 2008 and was expected to return from double knee surgery last August, hence he was named in United's squad for the group stages.
But the 29-year-old has now been out for 16 months and is still struggling to regain fitness, so United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has promoted young Belgian defender Ritchie De Laet to the knock-out squad instead.
England boss Fabio Capello had been willing to give the former Bayern Munich man, who has won 42 caps, as much time as possible to prove his fitness in time for this summer's World Cup.
Ferguson's decision to omit the Canada-born player shows he is not expecting him back any time soon, though, and he may even fail to return this season.
Hargreaves has been treated by renowned American surgeon Dr Richard Steadman but did not return from his Colorado base until mid-September.
Ferguson hoped he would be fit for United's final three Champions League group games yet although Hargreaves came through a behind-closed-doors match unscathed last month, the manager has alluded to "confidence" issues blocking his return to first-team action.
When Hargreaves joined United from Bayern in the summer of 2007, he signed a three-year deal with the option of another year.
The option is on Hargreaves' side and United have made no attempt to review the contract so they expect the £19million signing to remain at Old Trafford until June 2011.
Current Premiership Table