Marcos Rojo: Returning to the Argentina squad 'is what I want most'
Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo is targeting a return to the Argentina squad for the 2018 World Cup.
Rojo was sidelined in April with a cruciate ligament injury but is playing again and took a step closer to a first-team return when completing 45 minutes for United's under-23s on Wednesday.
After the game, Rojo posted a message on his Instagram account thanking his family and the club. He wrote: "At last finally the day came. Happy to have this feeling of playing on the pitch again. Now I continue working."
The 27-year-old had been expected to fully recover by September but his rehabilitation took longer than expected.
He told TyC Sports: "I feel I've lost time in the six months I've been out. But I'm very eager to get back. First I have to regain a starting place at United and do well in order to return to the national team, which is what I want most."
Rojo, who has earned 52 caps for Argentina and started in the 2014 World Cup final defeat against Germany, last featured for the Albiceleste in a 2-0 loss at Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier on March 28. He has yet to play under coach Jorge Sampaoli, who was handed the reins on June 1 as a replacement for sacked Edgardo Bauza.
Rojo said it was difficult to watch Argentina's final four World Cup qualifiers from afar. Argentina secured themselves a place in next year's tournament in Russia in their final qualifier, a 3-1 win at Ecuador on Oct. 10, with captain Lionel Messi scoring a hat trick.
"I suffered a lot watching the final qualifiers," Rojo said. "It was crazy but luckily Leo [Messi] came through for us and took us to the World Cup. I still feel part of this group, of the national team.
"I haven't spoken to the coach and I can't say whether or not I'm going to be part of the World Cup group. But I'm eager to get back, prove to the coach that I can do it.
"I know I have to make an effort to be considered for the national team and that motivates me. Hopefully, I will have one or two games where the coach can see me and I can prove to him that I can do it. He would then have to make a decision."
In the meantime, Rojo is hoping to be included in United's first-team squad for Saturday's home game against Newcastle.
"The coach [Jose Mourinho] will take a decision this weekend whether to put me in the squad and have me on the bench," he said. "He may wait until next week's Champions League game [at Basel]."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.