JOHN O’Shea’s hamstring strain has ruled him out of a return to 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 1 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 I would think 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 waiting to see how it is as time goes by.
“I know he’ll want to play.
“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.”
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.
But O’Shea will be less concerned about missing out on the United game than he will be about potentially failing to fit for the Republic.
If Ireland can get past Estonia then O’Shea will have a rare chance to play in a major international tournament.