Nick Powell
Nick Powell has been linked with another loan move to the Championship in recent weeksGetty

Theories that Manchester United midfielder Nick Powell may have missed the club's U21 Premier League victory over Tottenham Hotspur due to an imminent loan exit have been debunked. The 21-year-old was notable by his absence on 4 January as James Weir and a brace from Andreas Pereira secured a 3-1 victory for the hosts at Leigh Sports Village, with it now emerging that he is suffering from a calf injury.

Powell has yet to establish himself as a first-team regular at Old Trafford since arriving from Crewe Alexandra in a deal believed to be worth an initial £3m ($4.3m) back in July 2012. Having previously embarked upon a temporary stint back in the Football League with Wigan, he also spent the first half of the 2014/15 season with Leicester City following their promotion from the Championship. That move did not work out, however, as the player was restricted to just three substitute appearances in four months before the agreement was prematurely terminated in January.

The former England youth international has featured only twice under Louis van Gaal this term, sent on for the final 30 minutes of the crucial Champions League tie against Wolfsburg in December before also replacing Marouane Fellaini during the latter stages of a shock 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth four days later. Such a lack of regular first-team football has led to rumours that a third loan move could be on the agenda for Powell in the near future.

According to The Sun, he is is eager to prove that he is worth an extension to a contract that is currently due to expire this summer. They suggest that Preston North End lead five other clubs in the race for his signature, although it seems that U21 coach Tommy Martin has quickly dispelled any notion that his absence from duty means that a departure is imminent.

"He's injured," he told the Manchester Evening News. "He's got a calf strain at the moment."

Preston, currently 15th in the second tier following last season's comprehensive League One play-off final victory over Swindon, have already taken two Manchester United hopefuls on loan this term. Striker Will Keane netted twice in 22 total outings for Simon Grayson's side before being recalled by his parent club last week as Louis van Gaal seeks to improve his forward options amid a difficult period for his misfiring team in front of goal. That was immediately followed by the return of goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to his hometown club on an initial 28-day emergency loan deal designed to compensate for the loss of Jordan Pickford back to Sunderland.