Wayne Rooney will go to Germany on Monday after all, Sven Goran Eriksson announced yesterday, although the two days the player spends there next week may be the closest he gets to the World Cup finals. The Football Association has wrested control of Rooney's treatment from his club, Manchester United, and will take him on the squad flight on Monday despite gathering gloom about his prospects of playing.
Rooney will fly to Germany on Monday and then back on Wednesday for his decisive 7 June scan, and on that occasion he will be examined in the presence of England's team doctor, Leif Sward. It will be the first time a member of Eriksson's staff has been present at any of the scans on Rooney's broken metatarsal and demonstrates the importance the FA places in having its own diagnosis.
While Rooney is under no pressure from Fifa, football's world governing body, to go to Germany before the start of the tournament, it is the FA which wants him there under its care, even if for such a short period of time. The consultant podiatrist Steve Lyons has helped to treat Rooney at United, and also works on a part-time basis for England, but he will be joining up with the national team after 7 June. Lyons would only work with Rooney if the player was passed fit to participate in the rest of the World Cup.
The disclosure by United on Monday that Rooney's break "involves the joint" has done nothing to raise hopes that the 20-year-old will be able to play some part in the tournament. While United have officially handed over Rooney to the FA, which has made the decision that he should travel to Germany, sources at United have indicated they believe next Wednesday's scan will indicate he will not be fit to play this summer.
The club have been careful to abide by all the Fifa guidelines on releasing players and, whatever the result of Rooney's scan, believe that they have done everything to help the player recover in time. The United assistant doctor Tony Gill and chief physiotherapist Rob Swire will receive updates from the England medical staff on the state of Rooney's fitness.
The hopes that Rooney may play a significant part in the World Cup diminished considerably over the weekend and Eriksson is now preparing his England side to play without the striker. The latest step in that process was Jamie Carragher's inclusion last night as the new holding midfield player in place of Michael Carrick.
Michael Owen is expected to recover from the thigh muscle problem that required him to have a scan in Manchester on Monday, but the secrecy around his treatment has come under criticism from Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd. He said yesterday that Newcastle should have been kept better informed by the FA of the problems surrounding Owen, who has only recently recovered from a broken metatarsal.
Shepherd said: "To be the last to know, via the media, is certainly disappointing, especially after we have kept the England camp informed all the way about Michael's fitness since he first injured his foot and we have done all we can to get Michael fit to play a big part for England at the World Cup finals this summer.
"We've cooperated all the way along with England to help Michael, and that's why this is disappointing. We'll be making our feelings known and seeking an explanation from the England team management plus reassurances that this doesn't happen again."
Eriksson will have to choose between Jermain Defoe and Andy Johnson if he is to replace Rooney before 9 June and yesterday the England coach hinted that it would be the Tottenham striker who would take the place of Rooney.
Defoe appeared to be on his way to establishing himself in the England team in September 2004 when he scored in the 2-1 win against Poland, but his star has fallen since then, particularly after his poor performance in the 4-1 friendly defeat to Denmark last August.
While Eriksson has refused to indicate which of the two strikers he would choose should Rooney not recover in time, he has praised the 23-year-old Spurs striker.
Eriksson said: "Jermain Defoe has been getting better and better since he joined up with us. He has had a difficult season at Tottenham in not having played in all the games. It is always difficult for young players to sit on the bench because when their chance comes along, they want to try and do too much. They want to impress and many times the opposite happens. But I have been impressed with Jermain during the past couple of weeks.
"He has been very good, even knowing he is a standby player. He has worked hard and there is a smile on his face which I appreciate very much," Eriksson added.