Luke Shaw's anticipated return to Southampton has been put on hold again.
With Manchester United's young star defender in the early stages of recovering from a gruesome leg injury, the visiting Reds are set to move on minus one of their key contributors Sunday.
A product of Southampton's youth system who made his debut for that club in January 2012, Shaw was a popular staple for the Saints before he made the £27 million jump to United prior to last season. An ankle injury kept Shaw out of United's 2-1 win at St. Mary's on Dec. 8.
So all seemed right for a homecoming Sunday, but the 20-year-old broke his leg in two places from a tackle by Hector Moreno in the 15th minute of Tuesday's 2-1 loss to PSV Eindhoven in the Reds' return to Champions League competition.
''It is awful,'' United manager Louis van Gaal said. ''When he came into the dressing room, he had an oxygen mask and was crying.
"I hope he will play again this season."
Reaction to the injury spread rapidly and players throughout international soccer took to Twitter to post their concern and well wishes for Shaw, whose 450 minutes logged in league play this season are tied for the club lead.
"Gutted mate," Southampton forward Jay Rodriguez posted to the club's official Twitter account. "Stay positive."
Shaw, meanwhile, is grateful for the support.
"Thank you, you don't know how much you as a club mean to me," he tweeted to Southampton's page. "Thank you so much I really appreciate it."
The quartet of Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Shaw started all eight of United's matches over all competitions this season and are a big reason they've yielded three goals while going 3-1-1 in Premier League action. Marcos Rojo replaced Shaw during that ill-fated match and could be in line to start Sunday when the Reds look to rebound from their European defeat by continuing their solid top-flight form.
"You can't take anything for granted, whether that's a league game, a cup game or a Champions League game," Smalling said.
In perhaps better news for van Gaal's side, Wayne Rooney could return after missing Tuesday's match and the 3-1 victory over Liverpool last Saturday with a reported hamstring injury. Rooney still doesn't have a goal in his four league matches for United, who scored half of their top-flight goals against Liverpool.
He hasn't scored in his last three games against Southampton (1-3-1).
United's 6-2-0 league stretch against the Saints ended last season with a 1-0 home defeat. Man U have won three times and drawn once over their last four such contests at St. Mary's.
Southampton are trying to record a clean sheet in four consecutive Premier League matches for the second time in as many seasons. However, they've been blanked three times in their last four after a scoreless draw at West Bromwich Albion last Saturday.
"That's positive, because in my opinion it starts always at the back and a clean sheet normally makes a winning game," manager Ronald Koeman said. "But I think we have to realise that we have to create more."
Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic each have two of the Saints' five Premier League goals this season. Pelle scored in last year's home defeat to the Reds.