Bruno Fernandes has tested positive for COVID-19 and could miss Manchester United’s crucial Champions League home clash with Atletico Madrid.
The playmaker missed Saturday’s 3-2 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford, with his absence put down to an undisclosed illness.
Details have now emerged from interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who said Fernandes faced a race against time to be ready for the last-16 second leg on Tuesday.
Luke Shaw could be back from a coronavirus lay-off, while Rangnick is hopeful midfielder Scott McTominay will be able to feature after a calf problem.
Speaking of Fernandes, Rangnick said: “I don’t know. With Scotty, I hope so, but he had some muscular problems with his calf. That’s why we decided not to play him [against Tottenham], because Scotty, quite like Fred, is only valuable if he can perform with 100 per cent of his physical capacity.
“Luke hopefully will be back in training Monday and Bruno we will have to wait and see until Tuesday. This will probably be a last-minute race with him – due to COVID.”
Fernandes has been United’s chief creative force in the Champions League this season, with his six assists putting him four ahead of Shaw, who is second on that list at the club. He has also created a team-high 20 chances in the competition, with Cristiano Ronaldo next with nine.
Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Tottenham has raised hopes that he can make a telling difference in Europe, too, with United level at 1-1 with Atletico after the first leg in Spain.
Rangnick said of his 37-year-old superstar striker: “He can be a leader with a performance like that. This is what I have been telling him since I arrived, that with this kind of performance he can be one of the engines of the team.
“We have quite a few other players who can do the same, including Fred, Harry [Maguire], Rapha [Raphael Varane], Victor [Lindelof], whoever. Even Edi [Edinson Cavani], when he came on, the last 10 or 15 minutes showed how important and what kind of role he can still play. I wish him to be available until the end of the season.”
Rangnick was pleased with Jadon Sancho against Tottenham, with a notable assist for Ronaldo’s second goal reflecting the winger’s growing influence.
Sancho arrived with a big reputation from Borussia Dortmund last year and the 21-year-old did not immediately make the expected impact, but he is beginning to catch the eye.
“This is what he should be,” said Rangnick, quoted on United’s official website. “The club paid quite a few pounds for him in order to lure him away from Borussia Dortmund and if you pay that amount of money in a transfer fee for a player, he should perform on this kind of level.
“At the end, they are all human beings. The mere fact he cost a lot of money does not mean that he is playing at that level to start with.
“He told me that of course it was a problem for him to get adjusted to the intensity of the league, to the physicality of the league. Now he has managed to do that. I’m happy to see him play at that kind of level right now.”