The anxieties Manchester United had been nursing about Gary Neville's future 18 months after he limped out of a match against Bolton were reawakened yesterday by news that the defender has picked up a calf strain in training and will miss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's testimonial against Espanyol at Old Trafford today.
The United club captain had looked comfortable in the 2-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie last month and seemed to have shaken off the ankle and groin trouble which had limited him last season to a nine-minute cameo at the end of the United's Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Roma. Sir Alex Ferguson hopes Neville will be fit to face Juventus on Wednesday, though training injuries have been a recurring symptom of the 33-year-old's struggle for fitness.
The United manager said last week that Neville had looked ready for a return. "It's amazing and says a lot about the lad and his determination to come back after such a long lay-off," Ferguson said. "He's been looking great in training.
"He must have been gutted missing out on last season's successes," he added, "but I was pleased because he still played his part, he was always in with the players encouraging and got involved with everyone around the team. He was a terrific influence, even though he wasn't playing matches."
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick are both expected to shake off viruses for today's game, which is scheduled to feature a 20-minute cameo at the end from Solskjaer.