United are without 12 senior players for Tuesday's Premier League trip to West Brom, leaving Sir Alex Ferguson to pick through his squad for a team of fit players.
Ferguson was hoping the situation might have eased in time United's next league game against Everton - with both Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown tipped to be available after long-standing back and ankle problems respectively and Park Ji-sung on the brink of a comeback from a minor hamstring complaint.
But the Old Trafford encounter with David Moyes' men will now be played 48 hours ahead of schedule - moving forward to Saturday January 31 from Monday February 2 to clear the way for Everton's FA Cup replay with Liverpool on February 4.
It robs Ferdinand, Brown and Park, or anyone else among United's walking wounded who might have had a chance of returning against Everton, of two extra days' preparation.
The late change is part of a confusing February fixture list for United.
Their remaining outstanding game against Fulham - originally postponed in August because of United's presence in the European Super Cup - has been pencilled in for February 17. But that will be dependent on neither side requiring a fifth-round replay.
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