United concede defeat in Rooney dispute

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The Independent Online

Manchester United have conceded defeat in their dispute with the Football Association over Wayne Rooney and will not send a doctor to Germany this week to check up on the fitness of the 20-year-old. But Sven Goran Eriksson still has to wait on the decision of his own fitness coach, Ivan Carminati, who does not yet believe that the striker is ready to play against Trinidad & Tobago tomorrow.

There was another 24 hours of intrigue around the England striker yesterday, an issue that was further clouded by an interview with Carminati, who worked with Eriksson when he was a club manager in Italy, in which he suggested that Rooney was not "100 per cent fit". Carminati spoke to an Italian broadcaster and his words contradict a prevailing mood that Rooney is ready to play.

Certainly that is how the player himself feels after he came through a full training session with the England squad yesterday. Now that United have distanced themselves from the dispute the only obstacle to Rooney's involvement, it has been suggested, is the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, who is eager not to anger the player's club by bringing him back too soon.

However, the pressure not to play Rooney is certainly not coming from United, who have resigned themselves to whatever decision Eriksson chooses to make. After Rooney's 7 June scan, at which Eriksson refused to sign up to a specialist's advice that the player should not play in the group stages, United were offered the "courtesy" of sending a doctor to check on his condition. As they felt that this doctor's advice would be ignored they decided it would not be an option worth taking.

Eriksson's quandary is that he desperately wants Rooney to have had some match time ahead of the knockout phase. If he is relying on Carminati's advice, and Eriksson has already dismissed Professor Angus Wallace's suggestion that the player sit out the group stages, then it will not be until the Sweden game on 20 June that Rooney plays. He is likely to make an appearance as a substitute.

It is also a growing concern in the England camp that the 17-year-old Theo Walcott should be given his World Cup chance before the team reach the knockout stages and should they qualify by beating Trinidad & Tobago tomorrow the final group game will be the perfect opportunity. The fear among the England camp is that, should they need to beat Sweden to win the group, it will be awkward to accommodate appearances from Rooney and Walcott. Rooney has now trained intensively for six days since he returned from the scan on his broken metatarsal last Wednesday, albeit with an afternoon off to visit his fiancée in Baden-Baden on Sunday, and Carminati's assessment on his fitness is likely to have a major influence on Eriksson's final judgement.

The pressure to use Rooney in the final group game, against Sweden on 20 June, will diminish with a win tomorrow that would ensure qualification for the next round. With that in mind, Eriksson may feel it is a wasted opportunity if he does not introduce the striker against Trinidad & Tobago should circumstances allow.

"I hope Wayne can play," the Trinidad & Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker said yesterday. "You have to see the great players at the World Cup. I hope he's ready for part of the game. Perhaps for 20 minutes Wayne will come on the pitch. As a fan of football I'm looking forward to seeing him."

Eriksson emphatically ruled out the possibility of Rooney playing in England's opening game of the competition against Paraguay but refused to do likewise in the aftermath of victory in Frankfurt. The striker will continue his rehabilitation this afternoon when he takes part in training with the rest of the England squad at the Frankenstadion in Nuremberg. His father has now arrived in Germany and will be among the 42,000 crowd at the home of FC Nurnberg tomorrow.

The former United striker Dwight Yorke, who will be among England's opponents in Nuremberg, has warned Eriksson to expect a physical confrontation against a team that have already defied expectations by holding Sweden to a goalless draw on Saturday.

The Trinidad & Tobago midfielder said: "We have to be aggressive if we are to have a glimmer of hope. We have to play with intensity and determination - not just against Rooney - the whole of England will know they have been in a physical game."

Yorke also provided a reminder of his famed sense of humour when he insisted that Sir Alex Ferguson would be delighted to see Rooney take to the World Cup stage ahead of schedule. He added: "He'll be positive about Rooney playing. He would be happy for him."

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