The stakes were raised again in the battle to get Wayne Rooney fit when Sven Goran Eriksson said yesterday that he will take the striker to the World Cup finals even if he can only recover in time to play in the final on 9 July. The England manager made his pledge after being told that Rooney has more than one fracture in his right foot.
It was yet another day of revelations about the most crucial metatarsal in the country. Rooney's bone was broken only five days ago but already it has prompted a simmering dispute between Manchester United and the Football Association and the first public obscenity from Eriksson in five years. When asked what went through his mind in the immediate aftermath of Rooney's injury on Saturday, Eriksson replied with one word: "Shit."
For the iceman of English football, who has scarcely betrayed an emotion since arriving in January 2001, that was real passion. Eriksson insisted yesterday that he would take the forward even if he was only fit for the final. Why? "To win the final," he replied. "If we think he can make part of the World Cup, he will be in and why shouldn't he?"
Even United were drawn back into the debate yesterday, releasing a brief statement to say that "Wayne is still six weeks away from full training". That was a response to disclosures that Rooney has more than one fracture in the fourth metatarsal of his right foot, a fact confirmed by Eriksson but something that United do not believe should significantly affect his recovery schedule.
Last night, Rooney claimed it would not be the "end of the world" if he fails to recover in time for the World Cup. Rooney, who received the United supporters' Player of the Year award at Old Trafford last night, said: "If it is not to be for me this time, then I'm sure there will be a lot more tournaments after that. But I hope to get fit for this one because as a young lad, it is every player's ambition to play in a World Cup. "
"Miracles happen in life now and then," was Eriksson's phlegmatic assessment of Rooney's chances, although he will have a better idea today after his team doctor, Leif Sward, visits his counterpart, Mike Stone, at United. Those two men will ultimately decide if Rooney is fit.
Eriksson spoke to Ferguson on Tuesday and told him Rooney would, in all likelihood, be picked in the 23-man squad, with up to four extra reserves, that will be announced on Monday. He said the player will stay in Manchester where he can be treated by United. "We will be updated and if it is positive we will have him in the World Cup," said Eriksson, who was speaking at a Carlsberg-sponsored event.
Although he has consulted Ferguson, Eriksson has not spoken to Rooney blaming the player's need to turn off his mobile because of the volume of calls received. Instead, Eriksson has liaised with the player's agent, Paul Stretford.
Eriksson and the FA have been careful not to pressure United publicly and they believe the club are doing everything to speed Rooney's recovery. However, they hold one trump card: Rooney desperately wants to play in Germany and will push to be allowed to do so.
Given his recent attempts to play down Rooney's significance to England, Ferguson might not appreciate Eriksson saying Rooney's absence equates to "Brazil missing Ronaldinho".
"You can't replace Rooney because he's unique. You can't replace Ronaldinho because you don't have two Ronaldinhos. But we have a very good team, a very good squad and I'm convinced we will have a very good World Cup. "
If Rooney is, and he almost certainly will be, in the final squad on 15 May, he is likely to stay in Manchester after the team leave for Germany on 5 June to continue rehabilitation. It will suit the FA and United not to make any definite pronouncements on his fitness right up until the very last moment and that, judging by yesterday, could be as late as Berlin on 9 July.Reuse content