Alex Ferguson looking no further than Pogba as United try to cope with midfield crisis
Sir Alex Ferguson may turn to 18-year-old Paul Pogba to ease his Manchester United midfield crisis.
Darren Fletcher is unlikely to be seen again this season following confirmation he will take an extended break to recover from a chronic inflammatory bowel condition.
And, as Tom Cleverley and Anderson are also on the long-term injury list, Ferguson is short of options for the pre-Christmas trips to QPR and Fulham.
Yet the United boss still insists he has no plans to enter the January transfer market and hinted that, instead, Pogba could be asked to play a significant role.
"Pogba is a possibility," said Ferguson.
"He is a big, strong lad and a good athlete. He is improving and developing well. We have seen the progress he has made since coming to the club and physically, he is better than the rest of last year's youth team, apart from Zeki Fryers."
Even in Ferguson's long time as manager, it is unusual to encounter such a list of significant problems in one specific area of the field.
However, with Fletcher, it was an issue that had been rumbling on for some time.
United initially dismissed the Scot's absence in March as "a virus", maintaining that stance even when Fletcher failed to return for six weeks.
Further suspicions were raised when Fletcher missed the summer tour of America and, when he sat out the Champions defeat to Basle last week, when Phil Jones and Ryan Giggs were paired together in central midfield, there was no point maintaining the pretence any further.
"It's easier now it's out in the open," said Ferguson.
"That was the big decision he had to make.
"We were trying to address the confidentiality part of it in a different way by talking about a virus but that was down to protecting Darren.
"He got to the position, particularly in Scotland, where there was more delving into why we kept talking about a virus.
"He felt a bit uncomfortable about it so he decided to make it public."
Ferguson confirmed there was no timescale to Fletcher's recovery programme, and that the 27-year-old has spent a couple of days in hospital.
"The medical people have made the right decision," he said. "They regarded Darren's health as the more important issue and we as a club agree completely with that.
"He's not been in training - he was in hospital for a few days, and he'll rest now."
Ferguson has previously stated he expects Cleverley to have recovered from an ankle injury at some stage over the festive programme.
It is not anticipated the Yorkshireman will be fit to face QPR at Loftus Road tomorrow, yet still there is no intention for Ferguson to enter the transfer market.
"I don't why people keep going on about that," he said. "It's never been a route we've taken consistently unless a player that we've been interested in appears. But there is no sign of that at the moment."
Instead, Ferguson will rely on Jones, Giggs, Michael Carrick and Park Ji-sung, in addition to the precocious talent of Pogba, who joined amid some controversy from Le Havre in 2009.
Ferguson will have Dimitar Berbatov available for United's first trip to Loftus Road since 1996 as the Bulgarian has now recovered from an ankle injury that has sidelined him for three matches.
Should the Red Devils win, they will assume the Premier League's top spot ahead of Manchester City's meeting with Arsenal later in the day.
"It's going to be a hard game," said Ferguson.
"Hopefully we can get our form back and by the end of the month be challenging for the league.
"That is what I always hope for. You always have a good idea by that time as to what you have to do and who the main challengers are going to be."