Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes midfielder Darren Fletcher has given himself the best possible chance of salvaging his top-flight career by undergoing surgery to cure a chronic bowel condition.
After taking nine months out to see if the symptoms settled down, Fletcher returned to action in September and seemed to be making rapid progress.
However, after appearing in three games out of four at the end of November, Fletcher has been restricted to two very brief substitute appearances, the last of which came against Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
When the 28-year-old did not even make the bench for Wednesday night's FA Cup tie with West Ham, when Ferguson made 10 changes, it was obvious something was wrong.
And last night, United confirmed Fletcher had undergone surgery.
"It is something we thought would happen anyway and will improve his prospects," Ferguson said.
"He tried his best to cope with the condition but in the last couple of weeks it has just come back again.
"It is a blow for the boy but this operation, hopefully, will solve the situation in terms of his career in the game and, very importantly, his health.
"It will take him quite a while to recover but we expect him back in July."
Ferguson believes his fellow Scot's defiant attitude will be an asset as he tries to fight his way back to his best.
However, there is little doubt either that the United boss felt something had to be done if Fletcher was ever to regain top form after a problem that first became apparent in March 2011.
"We have never had any problem with his attitude," Ferguson said.
"He is a fantastic character and a brilliant boy. He will do his best, no doubt about that, he always does.
"But he wasn't the Darren Fletcher of three or four years ago.
"We started to use him sitting in front of the back four, which he did very well.
"That could be his role in the future because when he comes back - and I am sure he will - it will be in a different role."