Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were fit enough to have featured for Manchester United against Sunderland on Wednesday, a source has told ESPN.
Neither striker was even a substitute as United lost the Capital One Cup semifinal against the Black Cats 2-1 on penalties after the scores finished level at 3-3 over the two legs.
But ESPN has been told both could have been involved, with manager David Moyes opting not to use his most prolific players as United prepare for two Premier League games in the space of five days against Cardiff and Stoke next week.
Van Persie, who has missed United’s last 11 games after suffering a thigh injury, is thought to be cautious about making a return in case he suffers another setback. He was sat at Old Trafford alongside suspended captain Nemanja Vidic to see United’s hopes of winning major domestic silverware this season end.
Rooney, who had a groin abductor problem, has not appeared in United’s last five games. Like Van Persie, he has resumed training and had been sent to Egypt with a fitness coach for a warm-weather break in a bid to ensure he was available for Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Chelsea.
The 28-year-old rarely attends matches when he is injured but he was also a spectator as Sunderland reached a first cup final since 1992.
The Englishman, who has struck 11 times, and the Dutchman, who has 10 goals to his name, are United’s two top scorers this season. Both are also regular penalty takers whereas United went out with four men who rarely take them -- Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj, Phil Jones and Rafael da Silva -- all failing to score from 12 yards.
Moyes began with two strikers, Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, in his team but without any out-and-out forwards in reserve.