Sir Alex Ferguson refuses to call time on Gary Neville's career but Manchester United's club captain acknowledged yesterday that with the clock ticking on the one-year contract which expires next June, his persistent injuries are a concern.
The sight of Neville in the England squad for June's World Cup qualifier with Andorra recalled the days when no international side was complete without him, but it was typical of the misery he has faced for two and a half years, on and off, that a foot injury curtailed that adventure and this week he has found himself with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the youngsters left back at Carrington.
"The injuries I've had over the last few years have been a concern, but it's something I've had to deal with," he said. "I hope that I can stay as fit as possible and keep playing games for the club – I'm certainly doing everything I possibly can to do that.
"Injuries are the most frustrating part of being a footballer, but it's not something I think about every day. You just get on with things and do the best you can to stay fit."
With the winds of change blowing through Old Trafford – Rafael da Silva, 15 years his junior, is the coming man at right-back, Neville badly needs a run in the United side and can ill-afford many more setbacks.
His troubles began when a tackle by Gary Speed, then of Bolton Wanderers, in March 2007 broke his ankle and put him out of the game for nearly a year. The difficult afternoon Neville experienced in United's fortunate 3-2 win over Aston Villa on 5 April – his first game in nine weeks – demonstrated the 34-year-old's challenges.
He was not included in the squad for the Champions League final and a groin injury has hampered his start to this campaign. "I can contribute a lot more when I'm fit and, as I said, that's the most important thing, to try and stay fit." he said.
Ferguson said new French signing Gabriel Obertan's struggles last season on loan at Ligue 2 side Lorient from Bordeaux were a result of his previous side failing to detect a spine problem which United have dealt with. He will be fit in six weeks.
* Aston Villa defender Curtis Davies has undergone surgery to cure his lengthy shoulder problem. Villa manager Martin O'Neill expects to be without his services for a "fairly lengthy period of time".