Owen Hargreaves has been left out of Manchester United’s Champions League squad.
The move almost certainly ends any chance the midfielder had of forcing his way into Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad and raises fresh doubts over his chances of making a full recovery from double knee surgery in October 2008.
Last month, Alex Ferguson did state his intention to pick Hargreaves in his 25-man European squad. But UEFA have confirmed the former Bayern Munich star is not among the men United will rely on in their quest to reach a third successive final.
Plagued by a tendinitis problem since before his £18m move to Old Trafford in 2007, Hargreaves finally accepted the need for surgery last season.
He was closely monitored by renowned Colorado-based knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman until his return to United’s Carrington training base in September.
At that point, Ferguson was hopeful Hargreaves would feature in the final two matches of the Champions League group phase.
Instead, potential comeback dates kept getting pushed back, with the Red Devils chief citing a lack of confidence from the player himself for a slower than expected recovery.
Ferguson’s latest fitness bulletin about the Calgary-born star confirmed he was training with the first team for part of the week.
Still there has been no return to match action and the latest news – which rules him out of the knock-out round clash with AC Milan later this month – will only bring fresh doubt over Hargreaves’ chances of rediscovering the form that saw him named England’s player of the World Cup in Germany four years ago.