Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that club captain Nemanja Vidic is unlikely to return to first team action until Christmas.
The Serbia international suffered a cruciate knee injury in the Champions League game against Basel and then suffered another setback that left him requiring surgery on his knee.
Vidic made just six Premier League appearances for United last season but returned to action at the start of this campaign and made four starts before being ruled out.
Ferguson admitted that it is unlikely that Vidic will return to action within the next six weeks, confirming that he could be back in time for the busy festive period.
"I think we're talking around December for Vidic," Ferguson told the Manchester United official website. "Maybe around Christmas time."
It had been hoped that Vidic would only miss around eight weeks of action after being ruled out at the end of September, however, it is a major blow for a United side that has struggled at the back without their commanding captain.
Manchester United have conceded two goals in five Premier League games this season, with Ferguson being forced to play Michael Carrick at the back because of a number of injuries.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are both currently sidelined, while Rio Ferdinand has had injury problems in recent seasons.
Vidic will miss a number of important games over the coming two months, with away games at Manchester City, Braga and Galatasaray, while Arsenal and Newcastle both visit Old Trafford before Christmas.