United's double dream takes hit with Rooney to miss at least a month
MANCHESTER UNITED fear that Wayne Rooney could be ruled out for a month with his ankle injury and miss up to seven games in the club's pursuit of a Premier League and Champions League double.
Rooney suffered what was described as a first-degree sprain following a challenge on Bayern Munich forward Mario Gomez during United's 2-1 Champions League quarter-final first-leg defeat in the Allianz Arena on Tuesday. United have been told the injury will require a recovery period of four to six weeks.
United are confident, however, that the player will be fit to return to action in a month due to his record of healing quicker than expected.
The 24-year-old, wearing a protective boot on his right leg but able to walk without the aid of crutches, returned to Manchester airport yesterday before being ferried away in a club car which was waiting on the airside tarmac to take him for scan at a private hospital in Manchester.
Rooney, accompanied at the hospital by club doctor Steve McNally, is understood to have over-stretched ligaments in his right ankle after landing awkwardly following Gomez's challenge.
While yesterday's scan ruled out any breaks or ruptures in the ankle joint, Rooney will undergo another scan in the coming days, once the swelling has reduced, in order to gain a clearer assessment of the timescale of his absence from first-team duty.
Alex Ferguson has been forced to rule the England forward out of the forthcoming Premier League fixtures against Chelsea, Blackburn and Manchester City, as well as next Wednesday's Champions League return against Bayern.
He is also likely to miss the league game against Tottenham on April 24 and both legs of a possible Champions League semi-final, should United progress to the last four.
The Premier League trip to Sunderland on May 1 is viewed as Rooney's likeliest return fixture at this stage. With Rooney joining Michael Owen and teenage forward Danny Welbeck on the sidelines, Ferguson is left with only three fit strikers -- Dimitar Berbatov and inexperienced youngsters Mame Biram Diouf and Federico Macheda -- for a decisive stage of the club's season.
Italian teenager Macheda is expected to be on the bench for Saturday's table-topping clash with Chelsea at Old Trafford after finally recovering from a season-long battle against injury.
The 18-year-old burst onto the scene with crucial goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland last April and Ferguson admits that Macheda's return to fitness is well-timed.
Ferguson said: "Macheda has had a terrible season with injuries, but he came back on Saturday (against Bolton) and I am delighted about that.
"That's because, without question, he is one of the most exciting young strikers I have had in my time at Manchester United. His ability about the box for a young player is outstanding."
While Rooney's injury is not deemed serious enough to threaten his participation at the World Cup with England, his absence could yet derail United's dual assault on domestic and European silverware.
United have won 10 and drawn one of the last 11 league games they have played without Rooney, including last Saturday's 4-0 victory against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium, and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar expects the champions to continue to thrive in his absence.
Van der Sar said: "We have shown we can get through important games without Wayne. Against Bolton, we got a good win when Wayne was missing and other players did well.
"It can happen during the course of a season. Of course, you would rather have your best players available, but we have got players who can come in and do a good job." (© Daily Telegraph, London)