Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that talismanic Club stalwart Howard Webb has failed a fitness test and will be unavailable for the top of the table clash with Manchester City next Monday.
At his Tuesday morning press conference Sir Alex spoke about the significant loss in such a crucial game.
"I'm gutted for the lad, I really am", Sir Alex started, "He's been inspirational for us over the last two or three seasons and has put in several man of the match performances this year. He was superb against Chelsea in our 3-3 draw and what people don't realise is he has a great engine which you need in the modern game where matches regularly last 96 or 97 minutes".
Talking of the injury, Sir Alex confirmed it was likely to end his season.
"Webby damaged his ankle ligaments against Blackburn two weeks ago and our medical staff were originally optimistic he would recover for the Derby.Unfortunately Scholesy has booted him up in the air in training and it looks like his seasons over".
Looking forward to the match Fergie hinted at a possible replacement.
"We've been looking at Atkinson in training and he could probably do a job for us and Young Foy has always performed when we've brought him in for a start but we'll probably go with Marriner". Recalling last seasons Derby Ferguson continued, "Andy has only had a few starts this season but people will remember last season when he had a blinder against City when we won 2-1 at Old Trafford".