Wayne Rooney has been working hard in training ahead of Manchester United’s FA Cup third round tie with Reading on Saturday.
The 31-year-old has missed the last three games after picking up what Jose Mourinho described as a deep muscle injury prior to Man United’s 3-1 win over Sunderland on Boxing Day.
No official return date for Rooney was ever announced, but pictures showing the captain putting in the hard yards at Carrington suggest he could return in time for the clash with Jaap Stam’s side.
The game against Reading presents Mourinho – who will want to rest certain players after the exertions of recent weeks – with an ideal chance to ease Rooney back into the squad.
But things could prove to be more complicated for the Englishman further down the line. Mourinho’s current 4-1-4-1 system precludes the Englishman from featuring in the No.10 role, leaving only two avenues to the starting XI: the first, of course, would be the No.9 role, but can you really ever envisage Zlatan Ibrahimovic – now with ten goals in his last ten games – being dropped?
The next avenue would be on one of the flanks – an unnatural position for the captain, and one competently occupied by the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in recent weeks.
Forcing his way back into the starting XI could be something of an uphill challenge for the 31-year-old.