Paul Pogba's recovery from a thigh injury has been slower than expected and Ralf Rangnick does not expect the Manchester United midfielder to return to training for up to a month.
The 28-year-old played in a 2-2 Champions League draw at Atalanta in early November before pulling up during training on France international duty.
Former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hoped Pogba would be back "just after Christmas" and successor Rangnick said on December 10th that he was four weeks away from a return to action.
But the interim manager is now expecting a longer lay-off for the World Cup winner, who is the subject of continued speculation ahead of his contract expiring in the summer.
“Well, a week ago I was told that it would take another four or five weeks,” the interim manager said of Pogba.
“I’ve seen him this morning before the training session but currently I don’t know how long it will take.
“He’s not training with the team as yet. As far as I know from the medical department, it will last another three weeks, four weeks and once he is then fit for training that does not necessarily mean he is also match fit.
“It will probably take a couple of weeks until he is really able to compete for the first team.”
Pogba’s absence comes at a time when United are struggling to make a consistent impact in midfield.
The imbalance has been costly but Rangnick suggested there would not be any additions in that area of the side during the January transfer window.
“Well, it doesn’t help if there is a profile missing,” he said, having been outclassed in midfield by Wolves during Monday’s 1-0 home defeat.
“We need to and want to work with the players we have. We showed we are able to keep clean sheets with this group of players. But it’s what we’re doing with and without the ball.
“We had too many giveaways, too many turnovers in that game and this is also an issue we spoke about with the team that we shouldn’t make it too easy to the other team to get in possession of the ball, especially when once we have the ball it’s also about responsible decision-making, making the right decision at the right moment.”
United are looking to get back to winning ways on Monday when Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa arrive in the FA Cup third round.
Pogba is absent and captain Harry Maguire could join him on the sidelines, but Victor Lindelof is an option following a period out with coronavirus.
“Victor is back in training, since (Thursday), which is very good news for us,” Rangnick said.
“Harry hasn’t been able to train, as yet, and we have to wait and see how this develops, (Saturday) or (Sunday).
“With Harry, there is still a question mark but Victor will definitely be available for the game on Monday.”