Cristiano Ronaldo in line to start Manchester derby amid United striker shortage

Cristiano Ronaldo in line to start Manchester derby amid United striker shortage - GETTY IMAGES
Cristiano Ronaldo in line to start Manchester derby amid United striker shortage - GETTY IMAGES

Cristiano Ronaldo could be in line for his first Premier League start for more than seven weeks with Erik ten Hag at risk of being without forwards Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial for Sunday’s Manchester derby.

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire is set to miss the trip to the Etihad Stadium after suffering a muscle injury during England’s 3-3 draw against Germany on Monday.

But Ten Hag has more pressing headaches in attack with Rashford and Martial still working their way back from injuries. Neither player has trained fully this week and they are both doubts to face champions Manchester City.

Rashford’s hopes of forcing his way back into the England squad were ended when he suffered a muscle injury in the 3-1 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford almost four weeks ago. The 24-year-old scored twice in the game but has since spent his time rehabilitating from the injury.

Martial has endured even bigger problems with injury so far this season and has missed United’s past five matches with an Achilles problem. The France striker was also unavailable for the opening defeats to Brighton and Brentford with a hamstring injury and has played just 45 minutes so far this season after coming on as a half-time substitute in the 2-1 win over Liverpool.

If Rashford and Martial both fail to make the City game, it could open the door to Ronaldo, whose only Premier League start to date this term came in the shocking 4-0 defeat at Brentford on August 13.

The Portugal forward, 37, has had to become accustomed to a place on the substitutes’ bench in the league since then and his only goal this season was a penalty in the 2-0 Europa League win over Sheriff Tiraspol in United’s last outing before the international break.

Cristiano Ronaldo netted from 12 yards against Sheriff in the Europa League - AP
Cristiano Ronaldo netted from 12 yards against Sheriff in the Europa League - AP

Like Ronaldo, Maguire has been the other big casualty since Ten Hag’s arrival as manager.

The defender was only ever expected to be among the substitutes against City after losing his starting place to Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez. But a muscle injury sustained during his error-strewn performance in England’s draw against Germany at Wembley has dealt another blow to his hopes of rediscovering his form and confidence quickly.

It now remains to be seen if Maguire will be considered fit enough to face Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League in Cyprus next Thursday.

The former agent of another United outcast, Donny van de Beek, has revealed how the club’s indulgence of Paul Pogba forced the frustrated Holland midfielder to consider a move away from Old Trafford. Pogba finally left United in the summer while Van de Beek stayed but the Dutchman remains a peripheral figure under Ten Hag.

“I saw the disappointment about the way he was treated by Manchester United, and he saw up close what I did to turn the situation around. But from the day he was not allowed to leave Manchester United again, it was final,” Guido Albers told Voetbal Primeur in Holland.

“In the Netherlands, Donny got all the appreciation, performed well and was super popular with the fans. At Manchester United he then never played. The relationship between him and the club really cooled down badly.

“He had to compete against Paul Pogba, who reported late to the training camp, said sorry and was allowed to play again – in the place of a boy who was training 10 hours a day for eight weeks to show he was good enough.

“I then had that disappointment thrown at me. I underestimated what not playing any more did to him mentally. I should have looked earlier: how can I help him?”

Meanwhile, Pogba has blamed injuries in part for his failed second spell at United. The France midfielder rejoined Juventus on a free agent this summer, six years after returning to United in a club record £89 million deal.

“I like to think and say that it is my heart that made the choice to come back to Juventus. It was also maybe the right time to come back here,” Pogba told GQ Italia.

“The last three years in Manchester, also conditioned by injuries, did not go the way I wanted, it's not a mystery. Juventus came from two years in which they did not win the Scudetto. It was a good challenge for both of us, and maybe it was the right time to get together and try to take back our rightful place: me and Juventus.”