Speculation has been rife regarding the reason for Jose Mourinho leaving Wayne Rooney out of his squad to face Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester United's captain didn't travel to west London yesterday, sparking rumours that his recent plummet had reached a new low.
One start in his last five games for the Red Devils encapsulates how steep a decline it's been for Rooney, with Mourinho admitting last week how he feels a need to protect the 30-year-old from scrutiny in the media.
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"I think what you could hurt, you did already," he said prior to Monday's 0-0 draw with Liverpool. "I don't think you can do more.
"So I think in this moment it is time for him to recover from what was done to him and the best place for him to do that is feeling like he feels at home here."
However, while the immediate assumption amongst football fans was that Mourinho had dropped Rooney from his squad entirely, the real reason for his absence has emerged.
According to Sky Sports (see below), Rooney has been ruled out of the Chelsea clash due to a muscular injury sustained in training this week.
The striker-turned-midfielder played a full 90 minutes in the Europa League against Fenerbahce on Thursday, suggesting he picked up the knock during Friday's session.
So there you have it. Mourinho's decision to leave Rooney in Manchester wasn't fuelled by recent form or the level of abuse from the media, he's simply injured.
And yet there's still a sense of doubt. It seems almost too coincidental that Rooney picked up an injury ahead of such an important game and following an awful run of form.
That's the view of some Twitter users anyway.
A win against Chelsea would see United leapfrog the Blues and into fifth, three points behind current league-leaders Arsenal (20).
As for their hosts, Antonio Conte's side can potentially move above both Tottenham and Manchester City, depending on the margin they win by and the outcome of Sunday's early fixture.
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