JOHN O’Shea’s hamstring strain has ruled him out of a hero’s welcome at Old Trafford this weekend.
And his hopes of playing a part in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualification play-off against Estonia later this month are hanging in the balance.
The 30-year-old pulled up after just half-an-hour’s football against Aston Villa at the weekend with a recurrence of the hamstring that has twice sidelined him since joining Sunderland in the summer.
And scans have now shown that while the injury is not serious – a Grade One tear – it could keep him out for anywhere between two or three weeks, putting his hopes of playing for the Republic in serious jeopardy.
O’Shea’s injury looks certain to keep him out of the away leg in Tallinn a week on Saturday and there is only an outside chance that he could be involved in the return game in Dublin four days later.
Bruce said: “The good news is it’s a minor one but he has no chance of playing against Manchester United and he’s going to struggle for the Republic games.
“Normally, you would say he has no real chance of being involved in them but I know how much he’ll want to play, so it’s a question of wait and see.
“It’s a shame for him that he’s picked up the injury because he was just starting to find his form and beginning to look like John O’Shea, the ex-Manchester United player.
“He missed most of pre-season after getting injured in our first game in Germany. It was just one of those freak injuries.”
Both O’Shea and Wes Brown remain popular figures at Old Trafford.
After years of long service and title and trophy-winning success with United they are guaranteed a warm reception on their return.
O’Shea will now hope to get fit for the Republic of Ireland’s play-off games. If Ireland can get past Estonia then O’Shea will have a rare chance to play in a major international tournament.
Phil Bardsley will slot into O’Shea’s right-back postion for Sunderland at Old Trafford.