Rooney absence leaves United with striker dilemma
Sir Alex Ferguson’s refusal to risk Wayne Rooney against Bayern Munich tonight will have no doubt been greeted with groans across the country as England fans sweat on the striker’s return to fitness ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
Reports had suggested that the 24-year-old was in line for a shock return in his club’s Champions League quarter final at Old Trafford tomorrow night but hopes of a Lazarus-like recovery were dashed with two words from his manager - “no chance”.
But, whilst the nation holds its breath on the former Everton man leading the Three Lions to glory in South Africa, is the expectation placed upon him by his club more worrying?
Contrary to claims by team mates Edwin van der Sar and Nemanja Vidic, United struggled to fill the void Rooney’s absence has left when Chelsea left the Theatre of Dreams with maximum points last weekend, and their manager Carlo Ancelotti said as much in the build-up to the game.
For all of United’s strength in depth, they are severely lacking up front with Michael Owen sidelined by injury and Danny Welbeck away on loan, whilst Dimitar Berbatov’s £30.75m price tag comes under intense scrutiny after only netting 12 times in 36 appearances this season.
Federico Macheda was the club’s hero last year with a series of vital late goals that helped them to the title but has also struggled with injuries, whilst Mame Biram Diouf is yet to start a senior game despite six substitute appearances.
At a push, the old guard of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs may be forced plug the gap but their legs are not what they used to be, at the ages of 35 and 36 respectively.
When Cristiano Ronaldo left for sunnier climes last summer, few would have predicted the added significance Rooney’s role in the side would take.
United have never been a so-called one-man outfit, but Rooney has been in such show-stopping form this season that, prior to limping off the Allianz-Arena pitch last week, he looked set to fire the Red Devils to their fourth consecutive Premier League title.
Without him, there is a genuine fear that the side will struggle to recapture their form with Tottenham Hotspur set to visit Sir Matt Busby way and the small matter of a short trip to Manchester City between now and the end of the season.