Wayne Rooney's World Cup finals prospects will rest on a 14 June scan that could pass him fit to play in the second round of the tournament, but the England striker was left in no doubt yesterday that recovery lies in his own hands. Sir Alex Ferguson warned Rooney that it will be up to the player himself to achieve fitness - and that will mean wearing the orthopaedic boot he has come to dislike so much.
After four weeks of waiting, the sacking of a club doctor and the most eagerly anticipated medical scan in English football history the latest bulletin on Rooney's broken metatarsal bone announced that the player is making good progress. While it will be impossible for him to play before 14 June, his comeback could potentially be against Germany or Poland in the second round on 24 or 25 June - providing England qualify.
But it was at the end of an MUTV interview with Ferguson about Rooney that he hinted at the role the player must now take in making sure that the fourth metatarsal of his right foot heals in time. The 20-year-old is understood to have little fondness for the orthopaedic boot fitted for his right foot, which can be adjusted for pressure, but was told by his manager that he has to take responsibility for his own recovery.
Ferguson said that Rooney's resistance to pain could at times be "dangerous". "It's not just about what we can do from a medical point of view," he added. "Wayne has got to work hard himself and make sure he is getting the proper rest - wearing his orthopaedic boot at the right times." The scan will take place in Manchester, one day before England play their second Group B game against Trinidad and Tobago and, if successful, would clear Rooney to play against Sweden on 20 June. A more likely scenario if he was fit, however, is that the striker would be given time to recover further before the second round - providing England were not in desperate need of his services But Ferguson warned that unless Rooney had made a "complete recovery" he would not be returning to Germany. "The next scan is the key one," Ferguson said. "Hopefully, by 14 June, the fracture will have healed. If not, it will be impossible. On day one we promised the boy we would do our very best to get him to the World Cup. That is exactly what we are doing. But obviously, there has to be an improvement. There has to be a complete recovery."
It was a day in which Ferguson and Manchester United managed to strike a conciliatory note with the rest of English football, although the United manager could not resist attacking those who have accused him of not wanting Rooney to play at the World Cup. Privately, United are wounded by those allegations and suggest that even if that was their agenda they would find themselves in direct opposition to Rooney's wishes.
"If you think about it, the one player at this club I want to go [to the World Cup] is Wayne Rooney," Ferguson said. "You think of the experience at 20 [years old], how it can benefit the player and benefit Manchester United. I've had to put up with a lot of nonsense in the Press about us suing the Football Association."
Dismissing reports that he was opposed to Rooney travelling to Germany as "absolutely ludicrous", Ferguson said that given United's experience with broken metatarsals - David Beckham, Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Rooney himself are all veterans of the injury - the player would stay in Manchester for treatment. However, it is a requirement of Fifa that the player travels to Germany with the squad on 5 June to register and he will subsequently return to United.
Rooney is ready to do light jogging next week which will mean that he will join up with the England squad as they arrive in Manchester in preparation for friendlies against Hungary on Tuesday and Jamaica on Saturday. The shuttle running he is now ready to do for the next stage of his treatment is best carried out with team-mates - England will base themselves at United's Carrington training ground next week.
Ferguson spoke to Eriksson yesterday to tell him of United's plans for Rooney's recovery and to discuss the results of Thursday's scan which were analysed by a specialist in the morning. He will have impressed upon the England manager the "real drawn out experience" United have in dealing with metatarsal injuries and their belief that Rooney is on course to be training after six weeks.
Eriksson described United's prognosis as "very encouraging news". He added: "I am looking forward to Wayne joining up with us on Sunday. The fact he is flying out to Germany with us will give everyone a lift.
"Despite all the speculation, there has been a very positive dialogue with Manchester United. We are very grateful for the support they have given Wayne and the England team. We hope the second scan will show further improvement and that Wayne can play his part in the World Cup."
Ferguson also spoke for the first time about the departure of club doctor, Mike Stone, railing against the suggestion his departure was linked with Rooney's recovery. Dr Stone was dismissed last week but broke the news to United staff in a global e-mail on Monday morning. It is understood that his sacking began with a minor fallout with Ferguson about his extra work outside the club that spiralled into a serious dispute.
Rooney's race for fitness
* 29 APRIL: Rooney breaks fourth metatarsal following a challenge from Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira
* 26 MAY: Scan suggests Rooney will be fit to return to training after 6 weeks
* 29 MAY: England train in Manchester after B international v Belarus
* 30 MAY: England v Hungary (friendly, Old Trafford 8.05pm)
* 3 JUNE: England v Jamaica (friendly, Old Trafford 3pm)
* 5 JUNE: England travel to their World Cup training camp in Germany
* 10 JUNE: England v Paraguay (Group game, Frankfurt, 2pm)
* 14 JUNE: Rooney to undergo a further scan in Manchester
* 15 JUNE: England v Trinidad & Tobago (Group game, Nuremburg, 5pm)
* 20 JUNE: England v Sweden (Group game, Cologne, 8pm)
* 24 or 25 JUNE: World Cup second-round tie (Munich or Stuttgart)
* 30 JUNE or 1 JULY: World Cup quarter-final
* 4 or 5 JULY: World Cup semi-final
* 9 JULY: World Cup final in BerlinReuse content