Real Madrid star James Rodriguez has hit out at those who question Colombia teammate Radamel Falcao’s long-term fitness following his slow start to life at Manchester United.
Signed at the transfer deadline from Monaco on a season-long loan deal for a reported £6 million, Falcao is still to complete 90 minutes for Louis van Gaal's side and has scored just once in five appearances.
Having missed the second-half of last season and the summer’s World Cup after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage, a report in the Guardian this week claimed that United’s medical staff have been treating the same knee on a constant basis.
After also being sidelined for the past three games with a nagging calf issue, the striker’s latest fitness struggles have led to serious concerns over his health, but Rodriguez contends that people would be foolish to doubt his compatriot.
"I've not had the chance to speak with him yet, but he has to stay calm and he's mentally strong," Rodriguez told reporters ahead of Colombia's friendly against the USA at Craven Cottage on Friday night.
"We all have our critics, but he's going to get through this. He'll be fine and will start scoring goals to shut all their mouths."
Said to be on a £190,000-a-week contract at Old Trafford, United have the option to make Falcao’s move permanent next summer, but Van Gaal admitted last week that, even at full fitness, he is not a guaranteed starter.
“I have to decide which striker. It's not his fault," the manager said. "It's not his fault with the other system I could play with two strikers, but then the balance wasn't good.
"We had difficulties in the last half-an-hour of games. That's why I have remodelled the structure.
"Since then we have less goals in our favour but also less goal conceded.
"We have also played against the better teams in the Premier League in that time on an equal level, more or less.
"I cannot say when Falcao will be back. It depends on the progress on his injury. It's his calf."
Having been unable to join up with his Colombia teammates during the international break, Falcao also remains a doubt for United’s next league fixture at Arsenal on November 22.