Wayne Rooney, dropped for the first time in memory by Manchester United, was taken to hospital with a serious gash to his leg last night and will miss England's first two World Cup qualifying matches against Moldova and Ukraine.
Desperate to prove himself after coming on as a substitute with just over 20 minutes left of the home game against Fulham, he threw himself into a challenge with Hugo Rodallega and immediately called for assistance, pointing to a deep wound just above the knee.
He departed on a stretcher as United only just held on for a 3-2 victory. "He's got a very bad gash and looks as if he'll be out for four weeks," United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. "You've got to take care of these things in terms of infection. It was just an accident, the player [Rodallega] followed through after he shot and it was a bad one."
Following the 1-0 defeat by Everton in United's opening Premier League game, Ferguson started with his new £24 million striker Robin van Persie just in front of Shinji Kawaga, both of those players impressing and scoring on their home debuts. Like Rooney, both prefer to play through the middle and the combination of all three had looked unbalanced at Goodison Park when Van Persie appeared as a late substitute.
Only on one other occasion at Goodison Park, when being left out for his own good, has Rooney been omitted for tactical reasons. He finished last season as United's leading scorer with 35 goals in all competitions, but had a frustrating European Championship.
Fortunately for United, he is likely to miss only two League games. Van Persie looks a safe bet to take on the mantle of main striker, with Danny Welbeck, who was also dropped yesterday, in reserve. "I feel at home here, everybody has been so helpful," the Dutchman said. Ferguson added of his contribution and goal: "It was a fantastic goal. He will have a better understanding [with Kagawa] as time goes on. Our first half performance was fantastic. We were in control and it should never have been a match.
"The disappointment for me was the referee. There was a clear sending off for [Brede] Hangeland but because he had already been booked, he let him off. He didn't do his job and it could have cost us."