Louis van Gaal says captain Wayne Rooney is back in training but not ready to play for Manchester United’s first team as the manager grapples with a welcome selection problem.
Rooney, who has been out of action since February 13 with a knee problem, will not feature against Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday.
Instead, the 30-year-old forward must play with United’s development side as he seeks to regain match sharpness ahead of the final weeks of the league season and Euro 2016.
“He’s playing for the Under-21s,” Van Gaal told a news conference on Friday.
“His recovery is going very well.
“He has trained with us two times, but he has to build up his fitness.”
Long-term absentees Ashley Young (groin) and Phil Jones (ankle/foot) are also back in contention but are unlikely to feature against Spurs at White Hart Lane.
“Yes, they are more or less fit players but you cannot be fit after one game at a lower level,” Van Gaal said.
“We have a big squad now, we are training with 26 people and we have to adapt to that new situation again, but it is very promising now.”
United’s frequent injury problems this season have forced Van Gaal to introduce the likes of academy graduates Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, leaving the Dutch manager with a challenge to keep his squad happy as more established players return from the sidelines.
“There was a time when I could select only the fit players, but now with all the youngsters who have proven they are capable of playing, and all those coming back, I have a bigger squad,” he said.
“I have said to my players you have to help your colleagues who are not selected and a lot of players are not selected for the first team or sit on the bench.”
Tottenham, second in the table and desperate to keep pace with leaders Leicester, go into Sunday’s game in the unfamiliar role of title challengers.
United, though, are not short of motivation, with local rivals Manchester City just one point ahead of them in the fourth and final Champions League qualifying berth.
“We still have to close a gap of one point, so we must win,” Van Gaal said.
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