Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic is not expected to return from his knee injury until Christmas, manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted.
The Serbia international centre-back missed the second half of last season after damaging his cruciate ligament in the UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Basle.
Vidic returned to action this term but was forced to go back under the knife in late September after suffering another knee problem having made just five appearances.
He was expected to be sidelined for around eight weeks and Ferguson subsequently admitted that he did not believe the key defender had sufficiently recovered from his initial problem.
The Red Devils boss has now conceded that the 31-year-old former Spartak Moscow man is unlikely to return to action until the festive period.
"I think we're talking around December for Vidic," Ferguson told MUTV. "Maybe around Christmas time."