Wayne Rooney has been pictured without his knee brace for the first time since sustaining an injury in the 2-1 defeat to Sunderland last month .
The United striker has missed the last six games with knee ligament damage, leaving manager Louis van Gaal short of striking options. But having recently returned from a warm-weather break in Dubai with his wife Colleen, he was spotted in Manchester this weekend free from his protective brace and it looks increasingly likely he could return to action by the end of March.
Rooney was injured during the game at the Stadium of Light but continued and played the full 90 minutes - something Van Gaal admitted afterwards may have exacerbated the problem.
"That's also typical Wayne," said the Dutchman. "He's a guy who wants to go until the end and if he's feeling a pain and he doesn't want to go off.
"And certainly when you are in a drawn match he wants to win. That's a fantastic attitude but sometimes it's also bad for his body.
"You cannot say (he made it worse) because he didn't know when it happened. That's the difficulty."
It's good news for United. The Old Trafford side are currently embroiled in a battle to qualify for the Champions League and they suffered their first defeat in five on Sunday when they were beaten by West Brom - with Van Gaal relying on teenager Marcus Rashford to lead the line.
Rooney's return will alleviate some of the strain of United's debilitating injury list.