Michael Owen poised for recall as Manchester United pay heavy price with Danny Welbeck injury
DANNY Welbeck remains on course to make England’s Euro 2012 squad after a scan dispelled fears that the Manchester United forward suffered a broken leg during Monday’s 1-0 defeat against Manchester City.
Welbeck, a second-half replacement for Ji-sung Park at the Etihad Stadium, left the ground on crutches while wearing a protective boot on his right leg following a heavy challenge by Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong in the closing stages.
De Jong’s challenge sparked the touchline confrontation between Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and City counterpart Roberto Mancini which resulted in them being separated by fourth official Mike Jones.
Welbeck, who completed the game after De Jong‘s challenge, told team-mates that he feared the worst with the injury after complaining of being in severe pain on the coach journey back to Old Trafford.
But after sending the 21 year-old for a scan on Tuesday morning, United’s medical staff have told the player that the injury extends to heavy bruising, which could still force him to miss the club’s final two league games against Swansea City and Sunderland.
The positive outcome of Welbeck’s scan and news that he did not suffer a break will boost England manager Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 plans.
With Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two games of the tournament as a result of his red card against Montenegro earlier this season, Welbeck has emerged as a leading candidate to start the opening group fixtures against France and Sweden.
If Welbeck proves to be unavailable for United, however, Ferguson is likely to turn to Javier Hernández and hand a possible squad recall to the fit-again Michael Owen.
Meanwhile, City midfielder David Silva claims the victory against United has given Mancini’s team the psychological boost to take a potentially decisive step towards winning the Premier League with victory at Newcastle United on Sunday.
City’s win against United moved them to the top of the table on goal difference, ensuring they will almost certainly clinch the title if they win at Newcastle and at home to Queens Park Rangers on the final day.
And although Newcastle go into Sunday’s game chasing Champions League qualification, Silva insists that overcoming United has given City the confidence to claim the points at the Sports Direct Arena.
“Beating United is an important moment for us psychologically because we knew we had to win this game,” Silva said. “Mentally, we knew we had to win it. The Newcastle game is like a final for us now. We have to win it. We are ready to win the title.
“We beat United at Old Trafford. We don’t need to think about United now. We’ve passed that mental stage. They are a great team and they have been winning and winning and winning, but we are here to make things difficult for them. We believe we can win the title.
“It’s been a very, very long season, very tough, but it’s very important that we finish the job now. Win the two matches and win the title.”
Since losing 1-0 at Arsenal on April 8, City have erased United’s eight-point lead at the top of the table to move clear of their neighbours with Monday’s victory.
Throughout the past three weeks, Mancini has repeatedly insisted that the title is firmly in United’s hands, lowering the expectations on his team to find a way back into the race.
While Silva admits that the Arsenal defeat was a huge blow, the Spain midfielder insists that the City dressing-room always believed that the title could be won.
He said: “I am surprised to see United taking an eight-point lead and then giving that up, but don’t forget that we had a massive lead and we lost it too. There was never a point when we totally gave up on the league, but we did get to a point when we knew it was very difficult.
“Perhaps Roberto has deflected the pressure from us by saying the title is over. He has certainly taken the pressure off the players which always helps because the pressure is always there between Manchester United and City.
“In the dressing-room after the United game, you could see Roberto was delighted. He told us that we played a great match, that we all played great. But he also reminded us that we must concentrate on next Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Mino Raiola, the agent of United midfielder Paul Pogba, claims that teenager will choose next week between a contract at Old Trafford or a transfer to Juventus. “I will know next week,” Raiola said. “I think the boy has a very difficult decision to make.”