Both Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo have returned to Manchester United after poor international break showings with England and Portugal, respectively, as the Red Devils prepare for Sunday’s Manchester derby.
The United captain arrived at Carrington on Friday morning on his return from England duty, during which he was culpable for two goals in the Three Lions’ dramatic 3-3 draw with Germany at Wembley on Monday night.
Wantaway star Ronaldo was also spotted reporting for duty, having endured a tough spell for Portugal including a particularly disappointing 1-0 home loss to Spain in which he squandered several chances.
Maguire’s arrival is not thought to signal any involvement in Sunday’s grudge match, having failed to give Erik ten Hag any reason to start him ahead of Raphael Varane or Lisandro Martinez with his England showings.
The 29-year-old also picked up a muscular injury on Monday against Germany which has left him as an even bigger doubt for a role against City.
The 37-year-old Portuguese striker was also in the wars at the weekend, after a hefty coming together with Czech Republic goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik left him with a nasty-looking black eye.
Ronaldo’s struggles for his country came at the other end of the pitch, and his poor form left many calling for him to be dropped ahead of the World Cup in November.
Portuguese daily A Bola ran a front page on Monday that read ‘Less Ronaldo, more Portugal’, highlighting his fall from grace in his country.
Erik ten Hag made the bold decision to drop both players this season, with Ronaldo making way for a seemingly resurgent Marcus Rashford, and Maguire losing his place to new signing Martinez.
However, Maguire has still managed to retain his grip on the armband at Old Trafford despite starting only three games for his club and losing them all.
Both players have been the subject of sensational claims to drop international football and focus on their club careers as a result of recent displays.
In the vase of the 29-year-old centre-back, he has been publicly handed unwavering support from Gareth Southgate, but has shown on several occasions that he is unable to deliver on that faith.
He claimed after England’s 1-0 defeat to Italy that he was not worried about ‘rustiness’, but looked anything but comfortable in either game as a result of limited game time for his country.
For Ronaldo, the suggestion is that his country’s steadfast refusal to drop him is hampering the development of the glittering array of attacking talent at Fernando Santos’ finger tips.
And as a result the 37-year-old’s sister has leapt to his defence, writing on Instagram: ‘He has his family and those who love him by his side. They will always be by his side, no matter what.
‘But the current times don’t surprise me at all. The Portuguese spit on the plate they eat [from], it has always been that way.
‘That’s why when someone appears from the ashes and changes mentalities, it bothers… With you always, my king. Calm down.’
After a well-documented and high-profile saga that saw Ronaldo attempt to leave United over the summer, Ten Hag has done well to calm the ever-swirling speculation that surrounds many of his dressing-room leaders this term.
And having dropped both to the bench, on a seemingly permanent basis in the Premier League, United have gone on to record four wins in a row to shoot up the table.
But although Manchester City pose an entirely different quandary, it is unlikely that either Ronaldo or Maguire will come back into the fold, having both watched on from the bench as United dismantled high-flying Arsenal last time out.