Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed that €19m midfielder Antonio Valencia will miss the rest of the season after suffering a suspected fractured and dislocated left ankle during the Champions League stalemate against Rangers.
Ecuador international Valencia was carried off on a stretcher after his ankle appeared to buckle beneath him while unchallenged early in the second-half.
The former Wigan player underwent surgery on his right ankle during the summer and Ferguson, who conceded that Manchester United paid the price for his decision to make in-form Dimitar Berbatov one of 10 changes from his starting line-up against the Scottish champions, fears the 25 year-old is set for a length spell on the sidelines.
Ferguson said: "It's a similar injury to the one that Alan Smith had here (in 2006), so Antonio is out for the rest of the season.
“He has gone to hospital, but it looks like a dislocation and a fracture. It’s a bad one and will keep him out for a long time.
“He seemed to dig his toe in the turf and when we saw the Rangers player waving we knew it was bad. It was an innocuous challenge and we didn't expect that.”
Smith, now at Newcastle was sidelined for eight months with the ankle injury sustained against Liverpool at Anfield in Feb 2006, but Valencia will undergo surgery on Wednesday as United aim to start his long road back to full fitness.
Valencia’s injury overshadowed a poor performance by United against a defensive Rangers team, but having rested a host of key players ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool. Ferguson insisted his team should still have won.
He said: “The criticism will be why I didn’t pick a strong team but I felt I picked a strong team. We have a terrific squad of players and most of them played at the Charity Shield.
"We wanted to see how Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) could do in a full game but by doing that we left out Berbatov and his form has been outstanding.
He's been one of our best players this season and you have to say that was a loss. His ability to create in tight situations would have made a difference.
"This (result) was a blemish, but it is one point and you never know how the rest of the games will go. But we have a target now – nine points from five games.”
Rangers manager Walter Smith admitted he took little pride in the negative tactics that earned a point for his team.
Smith said: “In life, it’s easier to defend something than create something, but that’s the only chance for us now. We don’t feel proud of that, but have no choice.”