Wayne Rooney looks set to make his Manchester United return after the upcoming international break. The club captain has been ruled out since suffering knee ligament damage during the 2-1 Premier League defeat to struggling Sunderland on 13 February, a blow that cruelly curtailed an impressive run of seven goals in his last nine appearances.
That injury also raised concern regarding Rooney's availability and preparations for the European Championship finals in France this summer. The player has an unfortunate history of sustaining problems around and during major tournaments, with his preparations for the 2006 World Cup disrupted by a fractured metatarsal in his right foot.
England travel to the Olympiastadion in Berlin for a tough friendly against world champions Germany on 26 March before hosting the Netherlands at Wembley three days later. And while Rooney will definitely miss those matches, he is hopeful that he can make a comeback with enough time left to prove his fitness.
"Everything is going as planned," he was quoted as saying by United's official website during an announcement of a new sponsorship agreement with Gulf Oil International. "Rehab is going well but, hopefully, it won't be too long.
"I don't know [when I will return]. Obviously, I will miss the international games but, hopefully, it won't be too long. It's not too bad but obviously it's [a case of] just being a bit cautious. It's difficult to push back. If I tried to push it to be involved now, it could cause more damage. So, being cautious, after the international break is more realistic.
"I am hoping that, if I am back when I am expected to be back, depending on the two cups we are in, then there could be over 10 games left plus the England games. I was saying before it has been eight games that I have missed.
"I didn't realise it was that many so it's obviously really frustrating. Myself, the manager and the doctor felt it was best for me to get a bit of rest and that is why I went away. That will do me good in the coming weeks."
United have endured a difficult second season under Louis van Gaal and currently sit sixth in the Premier League, four points adrift of rivals City in fourth prior to the forthcoming Manchester derby. Their place in the last four of the FA Cup will be determined by a quarter-final replay against West Ham after a late goal from Anthony Martial secured a 1-1 draw against Slaven Bilic's side at Old Trafford at the weekend. Their chances of progressing in the Europa League seem slim, however, thanks to an utterly listless last-16 first-leg defeat to Liverpool.