Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed that Robin van Persie will not be fit to feature for the club against Aston Villa this weekend, with Chris Smalling also a doubt for the match after suffering from illness.
Dutchman Van Persie has been out of action since sustaining an ankle injury during the 2-1 defeat to Swansea on February 21, although reports had suggested the 31-year-old was in the process of stepping up his rehabilitation work in a bid to start training following the international break and play an important role during the remaining eight matches of the season.
And while he is on track to achieve that goal, it appears that the visit of Villa has come too early. Smalling, meanwhile, could also miss out after being replaced by club teammate Michael Carrick during the first half of England's 1-1 friendly draw in Italy earlier this week.
"There is only Smalling, who is ill," Van Gaal told MUTV after being questioned over any new fitness concerns. "He is still ill so I have to wait and see if he can train today [Friday] - it is very close to the game.
"Robin is coming back on the [training] pitch and Luke Shaw has already had a week on there, but match rhythm is very important. You cannot compare a player who has been out for four or five weeks to those that have sufficient match rhythm.
"We have a process for injured players in the medical department, they then go to a football coach for tests and then to me. Robin still isn't with the football coach. He's still not in my group. Luke Shaw is in my group, that's different, but van Persie isn't available."
Shaw, a £27m summer capture from Southampton, was forced to withdraw from the most recent England squad and also missed Manchester United's impressive 2-1 victory over Liverpool with a hamstring problem.
While his availability will come as a boost for the hosts, Aston Villa have been handed positive injury news of their own after Tim Sherwood confirmed that captain Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley have all recently returned to first-team training.
The latter is not available for selection this weekend, though, owing to the fact that he is still on loan from Old Trafford.