STEVEN Fletcher is an injury doubt heading into this week’s Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester United.
The £12m striker has a niggling injury which forced him out of the starting line-up against Southampton at the weekend.
And Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet says it will be touch and go whether he is involved at Old Trafford on Wednesday, when the Black Cats hope to build on their 1-0 victory in the semi-final first leg at the Stadium of Light.
Fletcher came off the substitutes’ bench for the ineffectual Jozy Altidore in the last 20 minutes against Southampton, and went close to a winner only to be denied by Artur Boruc.
But Poyet revealed: “We were trying not to play him at all because he had a problem, a little injury.
“We would not have involved him if we had been doing well.”
Fletcher was the only one of the Sunderland substitutes not to warm-up before the game, although he seemed to be moving fairly freely once he was introduced in its later stages.
“I asked him to take a risk for him and for his team-mates and, credit to him, he did,” said Poyet.
“It’s a tricky injury and he could have made it worse.
“But he was happy in his warm-up and on the bike indoors before the game and he gave us a very good 20 minutes.
“Sometimes you have to think of the player and I did not want to be responsible for him getting injured by starting him in the game.
“But he came through it OK and we just have to assess how it will be in the next few days.”
Apart from Fletcher, Sunderland’s only injured players are goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, who is sidelined for several months following shoulder surgery, while Carlos Cuellar is expected to return to training next week from a troublesome hip injury which has kept him out since early November.