Sven Goran Eriksson has declared Wayne Rooney fit for England's World Cup encounter against Trinidad and Tobago here tonight but, in keeping with the intrigue that has surrounded the six-week saga, not before the Football Association sought a further medical opinion on the striker's recovery from a broken metatarsal.
The England manager cleared the way for the 20-year-old to make his first appearance at a World Cup when he insisted that Rooney was now "match fit", a deliberate phrase designed to counter Manchester United's argument that he should not be considered until at least the knock-out phase of the competition.
As the Swede held his press conference inside the Frankenstadion, there was further bad news for the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson as his captain, Gary Neville was taken to hospital for a scan on a calf injury. The England right-back is out of tonight's game and could even miss the final game in Group B against Sweden next Tuesday.
Eriksson refused to elaborate on Rooney's involvement against Leo Beenhakker's side except to say that "I am almost sure he will not start the match. I don't think he's got 90 minutes in him yet", but his pointed comments will have confirmed to United what they feared following Rooney's CT scan on his broken foot last week - that the England manager is prepared to defy medical opinion, and that the invitation to send United's club doctor, Tony Gill, to Germany would have no bearing on when the striker will play.
The FA, however, yesterday summonsed Professor Angus Wallace, a leading orthopaedic specialist from the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, to Nuremberg to conduct an assessment that they hope will support their manager's innate confidence in Rooney's recovery and avoid any insurance claims that may arise in the event of the striker suffering a relapse.
"For me, Rooney is match fit," were the first six words of Eriksson's press conference. "I will decide [whether he plays] in the morning. Let me sleep on it, but it has been reported that Brian [Barwick, chief executive of the FA] and I had a row about it and that is a lie. We have discussed it a lot but there is no dispute at all.
"My opinion is that he's match fit. He was excellent in training, he threw himself at everything as usual, and since he came back to training he has had no problem [with his injury] at all. I speak with my medical staff every day and [today] I will make the decision."
Eriksson's fitness coach, Ivan Carminati, had indicated that Rooney would need another week's training before playing while Prof Wallace supported United's view that the striker should not return until after 20 June. The England manager, however, is willing to defy them both and strengthened claims that Rooney had informed close friends he would be involved against Trinidad and Tobago.
"If a player is going to be involved I [usually] tell them at least two days before," Eriksson said.
Neville could be out for a week, depending on the results of his scan, after developing a calf problem that is connected to the hamstring injury that kept him out of the recent friendly against Jamaica. On that occasion, Jamie Carragher deputised for the 31-year-old and, although Owen Hargreaves played in that position in training last night, the session finished with the Liverpool defender back in that role and favourite to start tonight.
"Trinidad and Tobago have a very good left winger in [Collin] Samuel, he's very quick," said Eriksson. "Maybe Hargreaves is quicker than Carragher but I have never seen Carragher beaten in a run. He's very clever and gets in good positions."
Eriksson's counterpart, Dutch coach Beenhakker, has dismissed England's tag as clear favourites for tonight's game, a view shared by the President of Trinidad and Tobago, George Maxwell Richards, who has cancelled plans to fly home before the end of the group stage. Beenhakker said: "The team showed against Sweden they have no complexes in their heads. We will have a lot of respect for England but we are not impressed. Their fans think they are one of the best teams in the world but they have to show it. Let them dream, that is all they are doing."Reuse content