Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he will give Marcus Rashford “as long as he needs” to get fit.
The precise length of Rashford’s absence with a back injury is unknown.
The United boss has refused to offer any assurances about Rashford being back for the end of the season, or even Euro 2020.
Solskjaer has said it will be at least six weeks before the 22-year-old striker is fit to start training.
Others who have suffered similar injuries say it will be much longer.
“Marcus is going to get as long as he needs,” said Solskjaer. “We are not going to risk him when he has had an injury. When he comes back he will be 100% fit.”
Solskjaer has received criticism from former Arsenal and England forward Ian Wright that he put his own needs ahead of Rashford’s by letting him play in the FA Cup third-round replay against Wolves at Old Trafford when the striker suffered his injury.
The Norwegian denies the allegation strongly.
“I never put myself before the team,” he said. “I put the team and the club before anything else.
“Yes, he had minor discomfort but he had scans. We monitored him. We have to manage players every single day. There are loads of things Ian Wright, or anyone else, doesn’t know about.”
Solskjaer said Rashford was not suffering from a stress fracture prior to the Wolves game.
“He trained the day before and did really well,” he said. “He looked free. I asked him if he was OK to be on the bench and he said it was no problem.”
Rashford’s absence has thrown into focus the decision to let Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez join Inter Milan last summer. There is no break clause in Sanchez’s loan deal, meaning United will continue paying the Chilean’s wages as they look for a short-term solution to what Solskjaer accepts is a stretched squad.
AC Milan’s Polish forward Krzysztof Piatek is the latest name to be linked with a move to Old Trafford, although that would almost certainly need to be a permanent deal rather than the loan United are initially looking for.
Neither Piatek, nor any alternative, will be available for Wednesday’s Premier League encounter with Burnley.
Solskjaer has ruled out picking 19-year-old D’Mani Mellor, a substitute in November’s Europa League game against Astana, so the responsibility of filling the void left by United’s 19-goal top scorer against Burnley will fall on Anthony Martial and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood.
“Someone has to step up,” said Solskjaer.
“Marcus has been fantastic and whilst we may find something in the transfer market, the best solution is the players making sure they are ready and taking their chance because what has happened will create chances.”