WAYNE Rooney is at the centre of new injury concerns after he was seen holding his thigh, grimacing and hobbling during a warm weather training session in Qatar with Manchester United.
Rooney's stop-start season has seen him begin no more than seven successive games, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledging on several occasions that the 27-year-old's physical make-up requires three games after each comeback before he is fully match fit.
He appeared to be in some discomfort in Qatar, rolling up his shorts and shaking his head at one stage during short sprints in the training session.
United's Ashley Young could also out for longer than Ferguson had anticipated when he said last week that the England international may only be absent for a week or two.
Young left Old Trafford on crutches after the 2-1 win over Liverpool earlier this month, following a first-half collision with Daniel Agger which caused damage to his knee - worryingly, on the same right leg that has caused him so much trouble over the last year or so.
The initial prognosis led to Ferguson's optimism when he discussed the player last week, though Young may not be back until next month at the earliest.
Rooney's only start this year was the FA Cup third-round replay against West Ham, in which his goal and missed penalty summed up the frustrations of a season in which he has scored 12 times in all competitions.
It is rate he will looking to improve on as United seek to progress in three competitions, with Fulham at Old Trafford in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.
The England striker missed his team's 4-3 Boxing Day win over Newcastle after he tore a ligament in the back of his knee at training on Christmas Day, before sitting out United's next two festive-period fixtures against West Bromwich Albion and Wigan.