Wayne Rooney's ankle dominated the sports pages today with England and Manchester United supporters waiting anxiously for news from Old Trafford about their talismanic striker.
"Not since Cinderella has so much rested on one foot," declared the Daily Mail newspaper in a headline that summed up the fears after the England striker was hurt in United's 2-1 Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat by Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
"Pray," declared the back page of the Sun. "England's worst nightmare," said the Times.
United manager Alex Ferguson said after the match that the club would have a clearer picture of the injury on Wednesday and appeared to play down the gravity of the situation.
"I don't think it is terribly serious but we will wait and see," said the Scot.
"He might be doubtful for Saturday (the Premier League clash with title rivals Chelsea) but we don't know for sure."
Bookmakers William Hill said they had immediately lengthened England's World Cup odds from 5/1 to 6/1.
"If there is the slightest chance of Rooney being absent it definitely affects England's chances in the minds of punters," said spokesman Graham Sharpe.
The England striker has been in top form this season, netting 34 times and Fabio Capello's side are counting on him for the World Cup finals that start in South Africa in 72 days' time.
Rooney left the Allianz Arena on crutches, unable to place any weight on his right ankle which was encased in a protective plastic boot.
The 24-year-old had scored United's goal but was left writhing on the pitch in stoppage time, seconds before Ivica Olic scored the winner.
That alone was cause for concern, with the no-nonsense Rooney not the sort of player to go down without good reason.
The sight of England's outstanding player being helped off revived memories of Euro 2004, when his involvement in that tournament was ended early by a metatarsal injury.
The run-up to the 2006 World Cup in Germany was also overshadowed by fears that Rooney would not recover in time, again because of a foot injury.
Capello, who has already lost former captain David Beckham to an Achilles injury, spoke this week about the importance of Rooney to the England team.
"The other who has been crucial is Rooney because this year he has scored a lot of goals, and he has done so for us as well. He has been very impressive. I hope he maintains this form for South Africa," he told Spain's Gol Television.
"There are three players who can make a difference at present," Capello added. "One is (Cristiano) Ronaldo, the other (Lionel) Messi, and Rooney."
England have been drawn alongside America, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C for the World Cup finals in South Africa.Reuse content