Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's career is hanging in the balance after it was confirmed that the Manchester United striker is likely to miss the whole of the new season with a knee injury.
It is the second season in succession that Solskjaer has had the problem and, apart from putting a hole in Sir Alex Ferguson's plans, it raises the possibility that Solskjaer will never play again. The Norwegian is in the final year of his contract and there was some doubt over whether he would be offered an extension even without yesterday's news.
"Ole underwent an arthroscopy in Gothenburg yesterday," a United spokesman said. "This unfortunately confirmed persistent damage to the articular cartilage of his right knee. He will undergo further treatment but it is likely that Ole will miss the whole of this season."
The 31-year-old missed five months of last season after an operation to cure the problem, but returned in February believing his problems were at an end. He came on as a second-half substitute in the FA Cup final win over Millwall in May, but pulled out of last month's US tour on the eve of departure and headed for Sweden for further tests.
Solskjaer, a virtual unknown when he joined United from the Norwegian club FK Molde for £1.5m in 1996, described the time he spent rehabilitating last year as the hardest of his career. He now faces a similar fight, and while he can take heart from his team-mate Wes Brown, who has battled back from two cruciate knee ligament operations, he knows that age is against him.
United will be without nine senior players, including Solskjaer, for tomorrow's Champions' League qualifier against Dinamo Bucharest, with Alan Smith and Diego Forlan Ferguson's only fit forwards. And the situation is unlikely to improve drastically before the weekend's Premiership opener at Stamford Bridge.
To make matters worse, Chelsea's preparations for facing United were given a boost yesterday with two of their strikers now available. The summer arrival Mateja Kezman won his appeal to the Football Association to overturn a three-match ban, while Adrian Mutu has pledged his future to the club after a move to Juventus fell through.Reuse content