Pallister pulled out of Saturday's 6-3 defeat at Southampton at half- time, while Butt got a kick on the knee which saw him limp out of the game after 17 minutes. "Pallister's injury will just not go away. He has probably twisted his knee and tweaked the ligaments," Ferguson said. "We need to give him a couple of weeks off to let it clear up completely but, with an important game like this, we also need to get him fit."
Meanwhile, the United midfielder David Beckham is being investigated by police after they received complaints that he made an obscene gesture at The Dell. Beckham is alleged to have pulled up his shorts and exposed the cheeks of his backside just before the end of the match. Police said they were examining statements from supporters and a report would probably be sent to the Football Association, although no criminal prosecution was considered likely.
Also under investigation is Leicester's Neil Lennon, who is alleged to have made gestures to Newcastle fans during Saturday's game at Filbert Street, and the Bury goalkeeper, Dean Kiely, who was reported to have incited the crowd during Saturday's home match against Bristol Rovers.
David Sullivan, the Birmingham City owner, yesterday pledged his future to the First Division club, despite threats to leave St Andrew's after the club and its managing director, Karren Brady, were committed to the Crown Court for allegedly issuing misleading ticket prices. Marco Gabbiadini has cut short his loan period at Birmingham after he picked up a cartilage injury. Gabbiadini, who was on a month's loan at St Andrews with a view to a permanent move from Derby, could be out for up to two months.
The Aston Villa striker, Savo Milosevic, is set to join the Italian side, Perugia, today for about pounds 4.5m. Milosevic, signed from Partizan Belgrade for pounds 3.5m 16 months ago, has managed just 16 goals in 57 appearances for Villa.
The Celtic striker, Pierre van Hooijdonk, and Leicester's Emile Heskey have emerged as Villa's major targets to replace Milosevic. Van Hooijdonk has patched up his recent differences with Celtic, but it is believed he would welcome the chance to play in the top flight in England, although Celtic are prepared to offer him a new deal, reported to be worth pounds 11,000 a week, in a bid to keep him at Parkhead.
The Villa goalkeeper, Mark Bosnich, has suffered a recurrence of the knee-ligament damage which kept him out of action this season until his controversial comeback at Tottenham a fortnight ago. He will be out for a month.
Alvin Martin, the former West Ham defender, is the favourite to take over as the manager of the struggling Third Division side Leyton Orient, after Pat Holland was sacked yesterday. Martin joined Orient as a player this summer.
Craig Whitington, the Huddersfield Town striker who was banned by the FA earlier this year after twice testing positive for drugs offences, has rejoined the Dr Martens League club, Crawley Town. His ban expires this week.
NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD (World Cup Group Nine v Germany, Nuremberg, 9 November): Fettis (Nottingham Forest), Wright (Reading); Worthington (Stoke), Gillespie (Newcastle), Hughes, Dowie, Rowland (all West Ham), Lennon (Leicester), Lomas (Manchester City), Hill (Leicester), Taggart (Bolton), Hunter (Reading), Gray (Nancy), Horlock (Swindon), McMahon (Stoke), Griffin (St Johnstone), Morrow (Arsenal), Nolan (Sheffield Wednesday).