Javier Hernandez's spell in the Manchester United spotlight is set to continue with Wayne Rooney facing a longer spell out than first thought.
Rooney is currently on holiday in Dubai after being given time off to rest an injured ankle.
The 25-year-old suffered the injury in training last week during an extraordinary few days that started with him expressing a desire to leave the club but ended with him signing a five-year contract.
Rooney was expected to be out of action for three weeks but manager Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday said he thought it could be longer.
That would almost certainly rule the England striker out of the potentially explosive derby against Manchester City at Eastlands on November 10.
With Michael Owen also sidelined, that could mean an extended chance for summer signing Hernandez, who has impressed with four goals in his last four games.
The 22-year-old Mexico international, aka Chico or Chicharito, struck twice, including a late winner, in last weekend's crucial Barclays Premier League victory over Stoke and followed up with another decisive goal against Wolves in the Carling Cup.
Ferguson has been impressed by the way he has settled since his move from Guadalajara but never had any doubts he would succeed.
The Scot said: “We are not surprised because we identified a lot about him before we signed him. We did a lot of work on him.
“Seeing him in pre-season and training we thought he would do well.
“He is young and wants to learn and he comes from a really good football pedigree. He speaks the language and that is important.
“Everything is in his favour.
“We are all pleased. Everyone is really excited to have him at the club. He has done really well.
“His winning goal on Tuesday demonstrated again that he is a very good finisher.”
Ferguson needs Hernandez to maintain his current form, and Dimitar Berbatov to reproduce his performances of the early campaign, to keep the spotlight away from Rooney's lack of goals.
Rooney had struggled for form all season before getting injured, netting just once for United in the first two months of the season.
When asked yesterday at a press conference if Rooney was still on target to return in line with the initial three-week prognosis, Ferguson said: “I think it may be longer.”
He added: “There is no recovery — it is just rest.
“Before he went away we did his remedial in terms of what we could do at the time. Thereafter, rest — we're quite happy with that.”
Rooney's position at United dominated the headlines through
out last week but the team started to put the issue behind them with their hard-fought 2-1 win at Stoke.
Ferguson says it is no longer an issue as United prepare to host fellow Champions League challengers Tottenham at Old Trafford today.
“The players are focused,” Ferguson said.
“That is the important thing.
“It was a good result for us on Sunday, a strong result in the sense of we know how difficult it is to go to Stoke.
“The good part for me was coming back from losing a goal.
“Given our record this year of losing late goals, it could have been a killer for us. But they galvanised themselves really well.
“They played their best football in that five-minute period after they scored and then after our second goal. It was a good lift for everyone.”
Ferguson is now expecting a tough battle with Harry Redknapp's Spurs who, after finishing fourth last season to qualify for Europe's elite competition, are again riding high in fifth.
Spurs are just two points behind third-placed United and boast two of the competition's most in-form attacking players in Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart.
Ferguson said: “We have certainly seen a new Tottenham over the last couple of years.
“I think their progress has been excellent under Harry.
“He has brought a consistency to them and I think the area which is new for him is coping with the Premier League and a European league.
“They have got a massive game on Tuesday (against Inter Milan) but they have been to Milan and did very well to recover with 10 men. We expect a hard game.”
Owen is likely to be out for another four to five weeks after suffering a hamstring injury in training just as he was poised to return from a groin problem.
Ryan Giggs is still out with a hamstring injury but should return to training on Monday.