By Ian Ladyman and Matt Lawton
Hobbling on: Rooney
Wayne Rooney is expected to be fully fit for the World Cup, though he is likely to miss the next tumultuous month of Manchester United’s season.
Rooney arrived home from Germany with his United team-mates on Wednesday afternoon still using crutches and with his right foot in a protective boot after damaging his ankle towards the end of their 2-1 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old was whisked out of a side door of Manchester airport and taken to hospital for a scan. Although United refused to release the results of the examination last night, it is understood it was suspected to be a ‘grade one’ ligament tear.
If that is confirmed today, Rooney would be out for between three and four weeks, forcing him to miss pivotal games against Barclays Premier League rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday and Bayern again in Europe four days later.
However, enquiries by the FA’s medical staff yesterday morning went some way to allaying England manager Fabio Capello’s fears that Rooney would miss the World Cup in South Africa, and the Italian is hoping to have that confirmed today.
Walking wounded: Wayne Rooney leaves the Allianz Arena on crutches
It is not uncommon for United, at the behest of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, to be unhelpful when it comes to releasing information about their injured players. This is particularly the case if Ferguson suspects the interest is motivated by something other than the outlook for United.
Certainly this was the scenario yesterday as United flew home from a disappointing first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with all eyes and cameras trained on Rooney. Indeed, it is possible that Ferguson will not officially reveal the prognosis until his weekly press conference tomorrow.
Arriving at the steps of United’s plane in a private vehicle yesterday lunchtime, Rooney made light work of boarding as he used his crutches to help him up the stairway.
Once on board, Rooney sat a third of the way down the plane in an aisle seat and did venture to the lavatory, without the use of his walking aids, midway through the two-hour flight.
United, and indeed England, will not be totally satisfied that there is no damage to the bones in his foot until the swelling around his ankle goes down. Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, for example, was thought to have suffered only ligament damage until further investigation revealed an ankle fracture.
Moment of impact: Mario Gomez treads on the foot of Wayne Rooney
Long day: Rooney leaves a south Manchester hospital after having his ankle scanned
Nevertheless, the initial indications when United doctors examined Rooney at the team hotel in Munich yesterday morning were that the injury was restricted to the ligaments and soft tissue around his joint. He was, for example, able to put some weight on his foot once it was encased in a protective boot.
Despite this, Ferguson’s mood was grim as he contemplated the vital month ahead without his star striker. Rooney has scored 34 goals this season, 22 more than Dimitar Berbatov, United’s next-highest scorer.
Berbatov will be expected to lead the line against Chelsea on Saturday and then in games against Bayern, Blackburn, Manchester City and possibly Tottenham. Although the £30million striker has enjoyed some improved form recently, scoring twice last weekend at Bolton, he now faces one of the most critical periods of his up-and-down Old Trafford career.
United defender Nemanja Vidic said: ‘At Bolton on Saturday Berba showed what he could do. He had a great game against Bolton and is a great footballer
‘Also this season we have shown we play as a team. Wayne is unbelievable. He scored again against Bayern and had another chance, he is one of the best in the world. But we can cope. We will have to.’