Juan Mata looks set to be sidelined for the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery in the latter stages of March, with his manager José Mourinho confirming that the Spaniard will only be ready to return at the end of May.
Mata is Manchester United's second highest scorer with 10 goals this term after goal machine Zlatan Ibrahimović on 28 so the other attackers in the club's ranks are going to have to start making more of a contribution as they still chase Champions League qualification through the top four and Europa League.
If an unlikely early return is on the cards it'll be tight for time
United finish their Premier League campaign when Sam Allardyce's Crystal Palace visit Old Trafford on May 21 and then a potential trip to Stockholm for the Europa League final just three days later on May 24 would be the last fixture in Mourinho's debut season, therefore if the Portuguese's description of his return date is accurate the "end of May" will probably be too late.
The 28-year-old midfielder has been influential as ever this season and will be a big miss during the tense run-in with travels to Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham still to come as well as the daunting test against Chelsea at Old Trafford tomorrow afternoon.
Smalling and Jones expected to be back earlier
Unlike Mata, defensive pair Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should be back before summer arrives after José Mourinho told reporters in his Anderlecht post-match press conference that they will return in "mid-may," so even if the Premier League outcome is determined both players should be able to contribute in the Europa League final if the team were to get there.
United's fantastic squad depth should mean that there'll be no further problems that could effect the quality in the starting lineups between now and May 24 but the club surely can't afford many more setbacks if they want to achieve their belated targets.