The possibility of Wayne Rooney completing an astonishing recovery from his ankle injury in time to face Bayern Munich at Old Trafford on Wednesday has not been ruled out, with the Manchester United striker understood to have a 40 per cent chance of making an appearance.
Rooney, whose desire to make rapid returns from injury has always been a source of amusement and pleasure for his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is already beginning his recuperation in the gym. He is understood to be using the Carrington training centre's exercise bikes and water treadmill to recover from the minor ankle ligament damage sustained after a challenge from Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez, which led Ferguson to say on Friday the prognosis was "two to three weeks".
Ferguson will not tolerate any idea of Rooney, who tends to pester his manager for a role as soon as he feels remotely ready, returning to the fray before his rehabilitation is complete. Neither the delicate balance of the Bayern tie, which United are trailing 2-1, nor the debilitating effect of the striker's absence in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, will change the manager's view. He knows that to play Rooney (below) too early brings the risk of losing him for the entire run-in.
The official line from Old Trafford yesterday was that Rooney would be ready for the Manchester derby on 17 April, one of the five remaining games which United would seem to need to win as they trail Carlo Ancelotti's side by two points. But the 24-year-old, who is still wearing a protective boot on his right foot, does seem to be progressing well and it is to United's benefit that the Bayern second leg follows a full eight days from the first, effectively giving them 60 hours from today to assess whether the 34-goal striker might indeed play some part against Louis van Gaal's side. Bayern's own talisman, Arjen Robben, did not play in Bayern's 2-1 win at Schalke on Saturday and remains a doubt for Wednesday.
The United captain, Gary Neville, insisted yesterday that United were not dependent on any individual. "We never want to lose any player of his stature, particularly at this stage, but if your success relies on just one player, you won't be successful," he said. "What happened last week [in Munich] is not something we can think too much about. We have to be quite hard about it and focus on getting the fit players ready for the next game."
Chelsea, meanwhile, are beginning to consider how clinching their first Premier League title since Jose Mourinho's second successful campaign in 2005-06 might feel. Didier Drogba, whose decisive goal from a full yard offside was not ruled out by the linesman Simon Beck, said the wait would make it the most coveted title of all. "I think it would mean more for us to do it now, having waited for four years to win it back again," he said. "But we know we're not there yet. All I know is that we want to win it a lot, to prove to people the team we are."
Drogba, whose goal was only his second against United, said Chelsea were more determined than at any time since 2006. "We are more determined now," he said. "We really feel we can win it because to come here and have this mental attitude to think that we were going to win here, that really shows we are determined to win this title and that we really want it."
Ancelotti said of Chelsea's other goalscorer, Joe Cole, that "everyone has a desire for him to stay at Chelsea and so does he. There is not a problem, it is an economical problem, nothing else." Chelsea are unprepared to meet the player's demands that his £80,000 weekly wage be increased to six figures.Reuse content