Manchester United defender Eric Bailly has been ruled out of action for up to three months due to an ankle problem, Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed.
The Ivory Coast international has been missing from United's starting XI since the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea and will require surgery.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference as quoted by Manchester Evening News, Mourinho said: “He goes to surgery, the decision is made. I don’t say [he’s out] for the rest of the season but it’s for the next two or three months.”
The news is a blow for United, who trail rivals Manchester City by 11 points in the Premier League title race ahead of the festive period, with Mourinho's side set to play five more games by the end of December.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones started together at center back in the 1-0 win against Bournemouth on Wednesday, while Marcos Rojo featured instead of Jones in the 2-1 defeat to City.
Summer signing Victor Lindelof has featured more regularly in recent weeks after an unconvincing start to life at Old Trafford, while Daley Blind is also fit to step in if required.
After the Bournemouth game, Mourinho told the club's website he was not worried about the absence of Bailly.
He said: "During the whole season, we've had problems with central defenders but because the number is four or five, we manage always to have [players available] and Chris Smalling is playing amazingly well for seven or eight matches in a row maybe, so we are fine."