The career of Ronnie Wallwork, the West Bromwich Albion midfield player, could be in jeopardy after a knifeman stabbed him seven times at a nightclub in Manchester.

The 29-year-old former Manchester United player was attacked within minutes of arriving at a private party, alongside his girlfriend, at the Sugar Lounge bar nightclub on Thursday night.

Police are aware of a suspect and are trying to locate him.

Wallwork is still recovering in the Manchester Royal Infirmary and, while his injuries are not life-threatening, they are seriousness to put his career, which has spanned a decade, under threat.

Neil Sillett, Wallwork's agent, told The Birmingham Post that the player's situation was still "serious" but he is in "the best possible hands". Sillett admitted being concerned for Wallwork's career but added: "At this stage, it is more important to concentrate on his general health because that is the most important thing."

Eyewitnesses say that a lone knifeman approached Wallwork, without warning, and stabbled the player in the stomach, hand and back. Friends and staff at the bar rushed to help the victim and calm his shocked girlfriend.

Bleeding heavily, Wallwork was taken downstairs and given first aid before an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital.

He was last night in a stable condition. It is believed that the attacker was a man known to his girlfriend. Sources said that the man was a love rival.

One eyewitness said: "Ronnie and his girlfriend had not been inside very long when this guy caught sight of him, came over, and stabbed him six or seven times.

"Ronnie tried to fight back. There was no argument. He seemed to know Ronnie would be there. He ran out of the back-door fire exit. It all happened in the space of a few seconds."

Police confirmed that the attack, which took place at 11.30pm on Thursday, was not random.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "We are looking for one particular person in connection with this attack and we are in the process of trying to locate him.

"We have spoken to several eye witnesses to the incident and we are currently examining CCTV footage. We are very hopeful the attacker will be caught shortly."

The owner of the nightclub, John Rennie, said: "There was no argument but Mr Wallwork appears to have been stabbed several times to the lower abdominal area and a number of wounds to his hands.

"We get a lot of celebrities in here because they trust the way we run the club. It is not the kind of place where people get stabbed."

Wallwork, who joined Albion in 2002 from Manchester United, was a loan player with Barnsley when the attack took place. He played two matches for Barnsley and was considered to be surplus to requirements by Albion.

The party at the Sugar Lounge was a private, VIP affair for 80 people. The bar is usually frequented by minor celebrities like models and footballers.

A statement from West Bromwich Albion FC said: "We are shocked and dismayed. We are now making our own inquiries."

Wallwork was once banned from playing football for attacking a referee while on loan with Royal Antwerp of Belgium, but the sentence was rescinded.