Tuesday 22 May 2018

Man Utd skipper Wayne Rooney returns to training but not ready for Spurs showdown

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney

Simon Peach

Wayne Rooney has returned to training, but will not be risked in Manchester United's crucial trip to Tottenham.

A knee injury has kept the 30-year-old out for nearly two months, but the United captain is closing in on a first-team return. Rooney this week took part in two training sessions as he stepped up his rehabilitation, although Louis van Gaal will not risk him at title-chasing Spurs on Sunday Instead, the England skipper will line up at Old Trafford on Monday as United's Under-21 side host Middlesbrough.

"No (he won't play at Tottenham), he's playing for the Under-21s," said manager Van Gaal. "It's going very well. He has trained with us two times - only two times so it's not too much. He has to build up his capacity in the 21s team."

A solid display for the under-21s could see Rooney feature in Wednesday's FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham. But Van Gaal may instead prefer to ease the forward back against embattled Aston Villa on April 16 - an option the Dutchman now has thanks to his injury problems alleviating.

Not so long ago United were facing an injury crisis, but they have very few problems to contend with as the season draws to a close.

"It makes my job more easy because I can select better, but it makes the time for my players a little bit more difficult," Van Gaal said.

"There was a time when I could select only the fit players and now with all the youngsters, who have proved that they are capable to play, and with all the players coming back, now I have to select.

"I have a bigger squad so I have said to my players you have to help your colleagues when they are not selected."

Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw and Adnan Januzaj are the only first-team absentees for a trip to White Hart Lane that is likely to go a long way to deciding both sides' fate.

United head into the weekend fifth in the standings and just a point off Manchester City in the final Champions League spot, while Spurs need a win to kick-start their title charge.

Last weekend's draw at Liverpool saw Mauricio Pochettino's men lose ground on surprise package Leicester, who could boast a 10-point lead come kick-off should they win at Sunderland.

"We have to win, we must win, we shall win," Van Gaal said with a laugh. "No, it's not so easy. It is very difficult because the pressure is also for Tottenham Hotspur now because they have to close the gap on Leicester City.

"So it is in the same position more or less as Manchester United at this time and I think until this time Leicester City is in a very good position."

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