Ben Woodburn has missed the last two months on loan at Oxford United due to a broken foot, and on the eve of his return has suffered a cruel setback.
The 20-year-old was settling into an encouraging run of form for Karl Robinson’s side, before being struck early into a 2-2 draw with Accrington Stanley in October.
Woodburn had scored once and assisted five goals in 13 games for the U’s, but has so far sat out of 13 games since his 14th-minute withdrawal at the Wham Stadium, including Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to Man City in the League Cup.
He had been undergoing rehabilitation back on Merseyside, and was nearing a return to the United squad ahead of the visit of Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
But the Oxford Mail report that Woodburn’s nightmare will now continue, having suffered a broken bone in his other foot, due to what Robinson described as a “peculiar” style of movement.
“Ben loads in a very peculiar way on the outside of his feet,” he explained.
“He was in the process of getting orthotics and everything was done to take the load off that side of the foot.
“Everything was getting made to make sure it didn’t happen.
“Then all of a sudden just by catching his foot in training it unfortunately materialised.
“He’s an extremely talented young man. He’s not injury prone, it’s just unlucky.”
Woodburn has undergone surgery and is expected back at the end of February.
It is a miserable blow for the 20-year-old, who has struggled for regular football since his record-breaking start at Liverpool in 2016, when he came the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer.
He made nine appearances for the first team in 2016/17, but played just 50 minutes over two outings the following campaign and then endured a failed half-season spell with Sheffield United in 2018/19.
Having dropped down to League One with Oxford in July, he appeared to have found a much-needed platform to recapture his mojo, however now he is forced into the periphery again.
For the U’s, the priority will be ensuring Woodburn is able to return for the season’s run-in, but with talks underway with Liverpool over waiving their contribution to his wages, the emphasis is also on finances.
Robinson revealed there had been “many conversations” between the two clubs and the “relationship is strong.”
The Oxford Mail suggest United could strike a deal that sees Woodburn’s parent club pay his wages for the rest of the campaign.