Manchester United continued to insist star striker Wayne Rooney missed Saturday's shock defeat by Blackburn Rovers for fitness reasons after reports emerged he'd been dropped for a night out.
Britain's Mail on Sunday reported veteran manager Sir Alex Ferguson had dropped the England forward for going out for a Boxing Day evening meal with wife Coleen and team-mates Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson, along with their respective partners, following the 5-0 win over Wigan.
The newspaper added Rooney, who last season came close to leaving United after submitting a transfer request, had also been hit with a six-figure fine and was "bemused and furious at what he sees as a huge injustice".
However, United's official website continued to carry Ferguson's pre-match comments to broadcaster ESPN that the reason why Rooney, not even on ther bench at Old Trafford on Saturday, didn't play was due to a lack of fitness.
"Wayne hasn't trained well this week, he's missed a few days and we're hoping that he trains today, tomorrow and, by Wednesday, he should be okay," Ferguson, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Saturday, said.
"It's little strains here and there," added Ferguson, who in a separate interview before kick-off indicated he'd like three more years as manager of United, where he has been in charge since 1986, before retiring.
The Scot's comments suggest Rooney could return for the midweek fixture away to Newcastle.
United's stunning 3-2 loss to a Blackburn team that started the weekend bottom of the table meant Ferguson's reigning Premier League champions failed to go above leaders Manchester City at the top of the standings.
City, ahead on goal difference alone, can go three points clear if they win away to Sunderland on Sunday.