Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has broken his left foot, his club said on Sunday, delivering a major blow to the Premiership champions and England's Euro 2008 hopes.
"Wayne Rooney has suffered a hairline fracture of his left foot," said a statement released by the English champions on their official website.
The 21-year-old lasted just 45 minutes of Sunday's 0-0 Old Trafford draw against Reading, the team's opening league match of the season, before being replaced by Nani following a collision with Michael Duberry.
Rooney almost missed last year's World Cup with a broken metatarsal in his right foot and his involvement in Euro 2004 was ended after a metatarsal injury to his left foot.
The news will be a devastating blow for United as well as England who face crucial Euro 2008 qualifers against Israel on September 8 and Russia, four days later, at Wembley.
The club didn't comment on Sunday on how long the star striker would be sidelined but it's expected to keep him out for at least a month making him unavailable for the next two Premier League encounters with Portsmouth and Manchester City, plus England's friendly with Germany on August 22.
Sunday's injury came in accidental circumstances when Duberry trod on the 27-million-pound striker's foot.
It was clear Rooney had a problem, as he went down and removed his boot. Although he was able to continue briefly, he did not reappear for the second half, with Ferguson sending the 21-year-old for a scan.
Having already suffered two broken metatarsals in his career, the last against Chelsea in 2006 which nearly cost Rooney a place in the World Cup finals, it would be a big surprise if the former Everton man was not sidelined for a couple of months at least.
"There was no point in him continuing because there was a lot of swelling and he had quite a lot of pain," said Ferguson.
With Rooney out and both Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only returning to training after long-term injuries last week, Ferguson seems certain to hand Carlos Tevez his debut at Fratton Park on Wednesday.
"I was considering using Carlos at Portsmouth anyway but obviously, he will come into our thoughts even more now," said the United boss after the match watched by 75,655 fans.
United's defence of their title got off to an unimpressive start with Reading frustrating the champions to a stalemate, despite a catalogue of chances created by the home side.
Ferguson added: "We had some good chances, but it just wasn't our day. We certainly broke them down all right, but we couldn't find the goal. Paul Scholes, John O'Shea and Wes Brown all had good chances in the second-half.
"But credit to Reading. They fought, battled and scratched, but teams have been doing that against us here for 20 years and Steve Coppell hasn't been averse to doing that with his teams over the years. And I've lost count of how many goalkeepers end up man of the match here!
"The loss of Wayne was obviously key, though. If he had stayed on, we would have won the game, but we just didn't have anyone used to playing in the central striker role."
Substitute Dave Kitson was sent off for Reading a mere 37 seconds after replacing Kevin Doyle as a result of a studs-up challenge on Patrice Evra, but manager Steve Coppell insisted the foul was out of character.