Romelu Lukaku is in danger of missing the World Cup because of a thigh injury, with Belgium coach Roberto Martinez warning that he is prepared not to select the Inter striker.
Lukaku, who has scored 57 goals in his last 60 international appearances, has already seen his 2022/23 club season hampered by hamstring trouble.
That injury, followed by a fresh thigh muscle issue, has resulted in the 29-year-old featuring only four times in all competitions for Inter.
Lukaku, on loan with the Nerazzurri after a failed return to Chelsea, made his comeback against Sampdoria at the end of October but then had to miss games against Bayern Munich, Juventus and Bologna this month because of his latest setback.
The former Everton and Manchester United player was on course for his third World Cup after previously being selected in 2014 and 2018, but now his involvement is up in the air.
Martinez has confirmed that he will only pick Lukaku if he is fit enough to play in at least one of Belgium’s three game group games. That means he is in a race against time, with the Red Devils wrapping up the first round on 1 December when they face Croatia.
If medical staff decide that Lukaku wouldn’t be fit until the knockout rounds, he won’t go to Qatar.
“For the moment he is not available and is in the hands of the doctors. If he is in a position to participate in one of the first three matches, Romelu is a player we need,” Martinez told L’Equipe.
“If he can’t play in the group stage, he won’t be with us. We work day by day, but right now the decision is totally medical: we know him very well and see various signs of improvement.
“However, healing from a muscle injury is very individual. We will wait to decide shortly before having to deliver the list of those called up. If he is able to return to the field by 1 December, he will be with us. Otherwise, no.”
Player rating as Red Devils seal passage to Wembley
Manchester United secured their place in only a second major final in six seasons on Wednesday night with a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford.
Goals from Anthony Martial and Fred decided the game, bumping up an already comfortable aggregate lead from the first leg to 5-0, setting up a clash with Newcastle at Wembley this month.
The hosts had mild penalty appeals when Alejandro Garnacho went down under pressure from Neco Williams and Willy Boly. But nearly half an hour had passed before either side had a clear sight of goal, with a powerful Casemiro header saved by Wayne Hennessey’s outstretched right foot.
Despite chasing an aggregate deficit, Forest had seen very little of the ball but probably should have taken the lead on a rare foray forward. A throw-in gave Brennan Johnson the chance to dribble his way through, but the pacey Welshman’s finish straight at Tom Heaton lacked conviction.
Antony’s cleanly hit strike from outside the box in the closing stages of the first half had Hennessey worried as he flew to his left, seeing the ball just rise over the crossbar.
Wout Weghorst then struck the post right before the interval after an otherwise quiet opening 45 minutes from the Dutchman, while Forest winger Emmanuel Dennis had his head in his hands when his goal-bound effort was inadvertently blocked by teammate Sam Surridge.
United had stronger penalty appeals not long into the second half when Weghorst nicked the ball in front of Forest defender Scott McKenna, whose attempt to clear then upended the forward. It was given the VAR treatment but the on-field decision surprisingly stood.
Tempers flared a little around the hour mark, with tackles flying and Alejandro Garnacho involved in an ongoing fracas with Johnson and Williams on Forest’s right flank. The young Argentine forced Hennessey into a good save at the near post in one of his final acts before Ten Hag made a flurry of changes, including the return of Jadon Sancho after more than three months out.
With United already starting to turn the screw, those changes triggered the second half goals. The first went to Martial, capitalising on a rebound after fellow sub Marcus Rashford had seen an attempt blocked following an initial run by the Frenchman.
Sancho was then involved in the second goal not long after, feeding Bruno Fernandes on the right. The United skipper’s exquisite outside-of-the-foot ball to the far post was then put back across the box by Rashford for Fred to score an easy tap-in.
Heaton still had to have his wits about him late on to preserve his clean sheet, throwing a big hand up to parry a powerful drive from Danilo as Forest searched for a very late consolation. With the goal gaping, Surridge skied his own attempt on the rebound.
GK: Tom Heaton – 6/10 – A deserved opportunity but hardly a busy night until a spectacular late save.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 7/10 – Took up an interesting position relatively high up the pitch and often tucked inside that made it difficult for Dennis and made space for Antony.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 7/10 – Commanded every situation.
CB: Raphael Varane – 7/10 – Always composed and in control.
LB: Luke Shaw – 6/10 – Back after illness and can be satisifed with this performance.
CM: Casemiro – 8/10 – Another fine example of the type of performance that has really driven the whole team’s resurgence this season.
CM: Fred – 7/10 – Has been thriving alongside his fellow countryman and could play an awful lot more now that Christian Eriksen is out for a few months.
RM: Antony – 6/10 – Inches away from a great goal and posed a threat early on.
AM: Bruno Fernandes (c) – 8/10 – Put in a star turn, especially after moving to the right in the seconc half. Went close to a goal of his own late on.
LM: Alejandro Garnacho – 7/10 – Becoming more and more at home in this team.
ST: Wout Weghorst – 6/10 – A quiet opening 45 minutes until hitting the post on the stroke of half-time. Probably deserved a penalty after the break.
SUB: Marcus Rashford (62′ for Garnacho) – 7/10
SUB: Jadon Sancho (62′ for Antony) – 7/10
SUB: Anthony Martial (63′ for Weghorst) – 7/10
SUB: Victor Lindelof (80′ for Casemiro) – N/A
SUB: Harry Maguire (80′ for Varane) – N/A
Erik ten Hag – 9/10 – Went with a strong side to avoid any slip-ups, but it was the substitutions and slight tweak in shape as Fernandes moved to the right that made the difference.
GK: Wayne Hennessey – 6/10 – Made a handful of saves to keep it 0-0 for at least a while.
RB: Neco Williams – 7/10 – Had his hands full with Garnacho but ultimately outlasted his imprssive opponent, before switching to the other side.
CB: Scott McKenna – 5/10 – Arguably fortunate not to give away a penalty for a swinging leg that caught Weghorst.
CB: Willy Boly – 6/10 – Stood tall for long periods until the resistance finally broke.
LB: Renan Lodi – 5/10 – Barely touched the ball and had a tough night of defending.
CM: Remo Freuler (c) – 5/10 – Tough night against a very good United midfield.
CM: Orel Mangala – 5/10 – Similar story to Freuler, found it hard going.
RM: Brennan Johnson – 6/10 – Should have done with a great first half chance that he created himself, having already done the hard bit.
AM: Gustavo Scarpa – 6/10 – Had promising moments just as in the first leg.
LM: Emmanuel Dennis – 5/10 – Late replacement for the injured Jesse Lingard and initially struggled to get into the game. Had one decent chance blocked by his own teammate.
ST: Sam Surridge – 5/10 – With little of the ball, frustrations got the better of him when he cleaned out Raphael Varane to pick up a yellow card.
SUB: Alex Mighten (64′ for Johnson) – 5/10
SUB: Danilo (64′ for Freuler) – 6/10
SUB: Serge Aurier (65′ for Lodi) – 5/10
SUB: Oliver Hammond (86′ for Scarpa) – N/A
SUB: Detlef Osong (86′ for Surridge) – N/A
Steve Cooper – 7/10 – Set up his side well and they did admirably to hold out for as long as they did.
Player of the match – Bruno Fernandes (Man Utd)
Jadon Sancho makes long-awaited Man Utd return
Jadon Sancho made his first Man Utd appearance since October as a substitute in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford.
Sancho last featured in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea just over three months ago, a game that saw him substituted early in the second half on that occasion.
A combination of illness and a loss of form subsequently ruled the £73m winger out of action until the World Cup break. He then didn’t travel with the rest of the remaining United squad for a mid-season training camp in Spain, with manager Erik ten Hag stating he wasn’t fit enough.
The United boss also suggested that Sancho had been struggling mentally. The player was placed on an individual programme to improve his fitness and eventually rejoined his teammates in first-team training two weeks ago. He wasn’t deemed ready to return against Forest in the first leg, but a decision was made earlier this week to include him in the squad for the second leg.
With United already leading 3-0 on aggregate, Ten Hag decided the time was right for Sancho to make his comeback with just under half an hour left to play in the game.
The former Borussia Dortmund star was greeted with ‘Sancho! Sancho! Sancho!’ chants from the Old Trafford crowd and immediately took up a ‘number 10’ role that was slightly different to what United fans have previously seen from him.
Andre Ayew arrives in England for Premier League talks
Ghana legend Andre Ayew is due to arrive in England on Wednesday evening, ahead of talks with a number of Premier League clubs, sources have confirmed to 90min.
The 33-year-old, once of Swansea and West Ham, is a free agent after leaving Qatari club Al-Sadd last month and his availability has not gone unnoticed.
90min revealed on deadline day that interest was emerging, but as he is a free agent there was never a need to get the deal done by the close of the window.
Sources have confirmed to 90min that Ayew is arriving in London on Wednesday evening, with talks scheduled with a number of clubs.
Everton, who are failed to bring a striker in on deadline day, are one of the clubs due to meet with Ayew. But they are not alone in holding an interest in him, with as his former club West Ham, as well as Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest all keen.
Crystal Palace are also believed to be considering putting an offer to the veteran forward.
One potential issue is Ayew’s work permit situation – but his representatives are confident that on appeal someone with other 100 senior international caps would be able to secure one.
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