AMID all the ruckus about the red and blue tribes of Manchester gearing up for an epic Carling Cup semi-final second-leg, John O'Shea's trials and tribulations have slipped by virtually unnoticed.
Perhaps if Wayne Rooney had sustained the type of injury O'Shea is dealing with, we might have seen diagrams of thigh muscles and breathless Sky linkmen pointing out various options from deep tissue massage through to amputation.
Last week the worst case scenario for O'Shea was another two months on the sidelines but that now seems optimistic.
Perhaps if Rio Ferdinand was the man with a hard ball of old blood and uncooperative muscle restricting his movement, the lads who work the Manchester beat for English media outlets would have noted the seriousness of the situation.
A chat with John Giles put O'Shea's injury into perceptive. Eddie Gray had the same problem but with one major difference: he sustained the injury inside his thigh muscle when he was just 15.
According to Giles, Gray was never fully fit throughout his career and that the injury required constant attention.
Imagine that: one of the very best in a fantastic Leeds United team was operating at 80pc for the duration of his career. Imagine the player he would have been had he been fully fit.
If he wasn't a footballer and under close medical supervision, the condition could quite easily have resulted in amputation because of the hidden nature of the injury.
It feels a bit like a dead leg and if it's left long enough without any treatment, that's exactly what you could end up with.
Nobody is suggesting that O'Shea is in that kind of difficulty although one English newspaper did mention the 'amputation' word.
But he does have a very significant problem and, unless he's lucky, it could be a long time before we see O'Shea at his best in any one of the many positions Alex Ferguson has used him in over the years.
Despite O'Shea's assertion yesterday that the Déise defender could be back as early as March, a more realistic view would point to a much longer spell on the easy list, perhaps as far out as next season.
If the truth be told, the Manchester United physio team don't really know when he'll be back for sure. The nature of the injury lends itself to relapse.
This, of course, has ramifications beyond Old Trafford. Giovanni Trapattoni will not be at all happy to hear that one of his best players in the World Cup qualifying campaign may not be available to kick off the Euro 2012 series.
Mind you, if you tune into the gossip doing the rounds in Rome and Milan at the moment, Trapattoni himself might not be around.
For now, to use Trap's own words, all we can do is accept the man's promise that he will honour the deal he agreed with the FAI last Autumn.
The notion of a loan deal to place Trapattoni with Juventus until the end of the season might save the FAI a few bob but it would be completely unsatisfactory from every other angle.
Trapattoni has much to do to maintain forward progress and while kids like James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman are taking their first steps in the Premier League, he should be there to see them.
The fact that he isn't says much about the deal done with the FAI and clearly identifies Trapattoni as the one holding all the cards when he sat down to renew his contract.
But back to O'Shea.
It would be a big blow to Trapattoni and the Republic of Ireland senior squad if he is not around to pick up where the team left off in Paris and his prolonged absence would cause all sorts of difficulties in defence.
Just as he covers four or five positions for Ferguson, O'Shea is hugely valuable to Trapattoni as a full-back, a centre-back or at a pinch, in central midfield.
Take all of those options out of Trapattoni's mix and he has a problem. Full-backs are still in short supply and it will be a few years yet before Coleman can be properly assessed for signs of international quality.
For O'Shea personally, these must be dark days indeed. The obvious concern is that after two months of, no doubt, first-rate medical treatment, he seems to be in the same place he was in when he hobbled off the pitch in Paris.
It's never a good sign when an injury is as intractable as that, and all O'Shea can do is haunt the treatment table and look on as opportunities pass him by. Fate has been unkind to the Waterford man.