Sir Alex Ferguson has ruled defensive duo Gary Neville and Wes Brown out of Wednesday night's Barclays Premier League clash with Fulham - and virtually dashed any hope Anderson had of making next week's Carling Cup Final.
Neville is still recovering from a virus, while Brown has not yet reached full fitness - despite a couple of substitute appearances after an ankle operation - and Anderson is still some weeks away from a return to action with an ankle injury.
Still, with Wayne Rooney back after a hamstring injury, Ferguson has plenty of options on Wednesday evening for a game originally postponed last August due to United's European Super Cup commitments that has now become a quite important date in the Red Devils' fixture list.
"If we win the gap is five points, which is a fantastic incentive for us," Ferguson told MUTV.
"It would allow us to look at the league in its proper perspective."
United are looking for a 14th consecutive top flight clean sheet, a run that has continued uninterrupted despite their successful Club World Cup campaign in Japan before Christmas.
Even Ferguson now concedes he was concerned about the impact it would have on his side's domestic season.
But, once they had returned to England and won at Stoke on Boxing Day, the Scot had no fears for United's future.
"We didn't know whether Japan was a hurdle we could overcome," said Ferguson. "Even I had my doubts. But winning that match at Stoke on Boxing Day kick-started our season."
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