Sir Alex Ferguson is to have a hip operation that could see him miss the start of next season.
Manchester United have privately confirmed reports that Ferguson is booked in for surgery immediately after the club return from their three-week pre-season tour at the end of July.
That Ferguson will have his summer break and then travel to Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong before the operation suggests he is not going to be sidelined for too long.
However, United must face either Manchester City or Wigan in the Community Shield at Wembley on August 11, with their title defence due to begin the following weekend.
No timescale is being put on Ferguson's likely absence but it would require a rapid recovery from the 71-year-old in order for him to be back in the dug-out by then.
Ferguson has always said his health would dictate how long he would carry on as United manager.
He was taken ill at a function in his native Scotland almost 12 months ago, although his nosebleeds were put down to the amount of short flights he had undertaken.
Ferguson subsequently missed pre-season matches in Norway and Germany and also sat out a mid-winter break in Qatar.
Other than that though, he has remained in bullish mood and yesterday poured champagne for journalists attending his press conference at United's Carrington training ground in recognition of a 13th Premier League title.