Wayne Rooney spoke for the first time last night about the broken metatarsal bone that threatens to rule him out of the World Cup finals - but while the nation waited for reassurance that he had a chance of regaining his fitness, all the 20-year-old could promise was that he would give himself "the best possible chance".
It was a measure of how sensitive the Rooney affair has become - teetering on the brink of a club against country dispute on Monday - that Manchester United authorised an interview with the player on their in-house MUTV channel to clarify the situation. Looking upbeat and mildly optimistic, Rooney, who has been fitted with an air boot on his right foot, said he would be at United's training ground "every day" in a bid to recover his fitness.
"I'm devastated to break my foot at this moment in time, it's horrible but you have to get on with it and be positive," Rooney said. "First of all I've got to come in [to United's Carrington training ground] every day and give myself the best possible chance. With the physio team behind me at United I will have the best possible chance.
"I'm disappointed to have got injured when I have but I am in good hands here at United. I have to give myself the best possible chance and I have to stay positive."
The Rooney interview has helped to take the sting out of Sir Alex Ferguson's comments on Monday night after United's draw with Middlesbrough when he criticised Sven Goran Eriksson for raising expectations and described the prospect of Rooney playing in the World Cup quarter-finals as a "wild dream". United are well aware of their obligations to the Football Association and that Rooney is desperate to play in the tournament.
There are a number of options open to the club and the FA including the possibility that Rooney is named in the squad but remains at home up until a week before he is judged fit to play for England - providing the team are still in the tournament. It would allow him to continue his treatment in private at United and avoid the attention that would accompany the squad's flight to Germany on 5 June.
Although that arrangement has not yet been checked with Fifa, it is thought that the world governing body would be sympathetic to measures that would allow the very best players in the world to play in the tournament. The possibility of Rooney staying in Manchester would be preferable for the club, whose Carrington training ground is famous for its fortress-like seclusion.
With the FA eager to establish that there is no rift with United, Ferguson also sounded a more conciliatory note over the player yesterday, although his prognosis is far from optimistic for Eriksson. The United manager clearly feels his duty of care to Rooney very keenly, and while his first responsibilities are to his club, there is no suggestion that he would stand in the way of the player should he be fully fit.
"We want Wayne at the World Cup as much as anyone because it would be a great credit to us if he performs properly on the world stage, which I am sure he would," Ferguson said. "But can you ask a player, no matter what standard, to play in the quarter-final of a World Cup after only two weeks' training? It is impossible. There are people now who think Wayne is a certainty to play in the World Cup. I think he is far from that."
In a well-choreographed interview, Rooney thanked supporters for their "messages of support" and asked the press to give him the privacy he needed to recover. "I'm sure they will be updated," he added, although given the level of interest around his progress, asking to be left in peace might be a touch optimistic.
Rooney said that he was aware that he had sustained a serious injury - it is the fourth metatarsal on his right foot - almost immediately after the tackle with Paulo Ferreira at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. "As soon as I raised my foot I felt something pop and I knew straight away that I had broken it," he said.
He also launched a defence of his football boots. He was wearing the Nike "Total 90 Supremacy" boot for the first time and had evidently been asked to emphasise the boots' innocence in his break.
"Before we actually wear the boots they get tested out to make sure they are suitable for the player," Rooney said. "My boots have been checked out and they are fine. It was an impact break and there was a lot of pressure on my foot."
Rooney's England and United team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, said yesterday: "Wayne is a special talent and if he can get into the squad and play some part, that will be great."Reuse content