Manchester United’s prospects for the new season were dealt a major setback last night with the news that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will miss the entire season because of his persistent knee problems.

Solskjaer first damaged the cartilage in his right knee during United’s Champions League tie against Panathinaikos last September and althopugh he returned to first team action towards the end of the season, he has continued to struggle with the problem.

“It will take at least one year before Ole can play football again,” said Lars Petersson, a specialist who examined the player at the weekend.

“There is a good chance of him playing football again, but I cannot give any guarantees.”

A United spokesman said: “Ole underwent an arthroscopy and this unfortunately confirmed persistent damage to the articular cartilage. He will undergo further treatment but it is likely he will miss the whole of this season.”

Solskjaer may now travel to the USA where several sportsmen have had their knees rebuilt using a new technique that involves transferring the cartilage from a dead donor. This might be his last option if he is ever to play top-flight football again.

Solskjaer was asked at the weekend whether his career might be over.

“I am aware of that,” he replied.

“I just hope it will not be that serious. The one good thing about this operation is that it will give me a firm idea of the problem so everyone is aware of what exactly is wrong.”

Following the arrival of Alan Smith in the summer, United do have cover up front, although a renewed bid for Everton striker Wayne Rooney cannot be ruled out.