Tuesday 24 April 2018

Rooney's woes deepen as Fergie leaves striker out of crunch Valencia collision

Rory Smith and Mark Ogden

Wayne Rooney has been omitted from Manchester United's Champions League squad for the clash with Valencia tomorrow, further fuelling concerns over the striker's readiness to overcome his injury troubles and damaging off-pitch revelations.

The 24-year-old is struggling with an ankle injury sustained in United's 2-2 draw with Bolton on Sunday and a statement released on the club's website yesterday afternoon confirmed that he had not recovered sufficiently to face the Spanish league leaders.

Ferguson and his assistant, Mike Phelan, both suggested after the game at the Reebok Stadium that Rooney's injury was not likely to rule him out of the trip to Spain and it is believed Ferguson had considered resting him regardless of his physical condition after a series of below-par displays.

Rooney has cut a disconsolate figure since sustaining an ankle injury in United's Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich in March, enduring a poor World Cup and beginning the season under a cloud after revelations he had slept with prostitutes.

The striker is yet to score from open play for United this campaign -- his solitary goal coming from the penalty spot -- and Ferguson admitted last Friday that he felt Rooney (right) was struggling to cope with the "exhausting" scrutiny of his private life.

Though Kevin Keegan suggested such an excuse was not valid for a player who has actively courted the public spotlight in recent years, it is hard to escape the impression that Rooney's private problems are affecting his professional performances.

Rooney has already missed United's Premier League fixtures with Fulham and Everton, but he has scarcely made an impact in those games he has started.

On Sunday, he was nullified by Zat Knight and Sam Ricketts, an achievement made all the more telling by the fact that the latter, a full-back deployed in the centre due to the absence of Gary Cahill and Andy O'Brien, has more experience playing in the position in non-league football than he does in the Premier League.

"My only experience of playing there was a couple of games in the (Oxford United) youth team and for Telford in the Conference before I joined Swansea," said Ricketts. "(Owen Coyle) put me there a couple of times last year and he did it again against United.

"I do enjoy the challenge of me versus the centre-forward -- it is a bit more of a mind game, and I think that suits me. I do not think it would be as simple if we played them every week. They might be misfiring a little bit at the moment but we played well. It felt nice to come off the pitch having done well against top strikers."

Knight admitted Rooney's poor form contributed to a surprisingly gentle afternoon for Bolton's defence. "Rooney has not hit the form everyone expects," he said. "We were expecting Dimitar Berbatov to be lively, so we tried to put a lot of pressure on him and we coped quite comfortably."

At the other end, United looked anything but secure against Coyle's side, conceding two goals to cement this as their worst defensive start to a season since 2001. Ferguson's team have now shipped nine goals in six Premier League games and Nemanja Vidic admits they must improve if they are to stifle Valencia.

"It is a big concern conceding so many away goals," he said. "Over the last few years we have not given that many goals away and have not given teams so many chances.

"But in the last three away games we have not kept a clean sheet. We have to be much better in Spain. Valencia are top of La Liga. That shows how well they are playing." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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