Manchester United have admitted that the exceptional decision to send Wayne Rooney for a week's rehabilitation at Nike's United States base in Portland, Oregon, has been taken to remove him from the spotlight after the most chaotic period of his career.
The United assistant manager Mike Phelan, speaking yesterday in place of Sir Alex Ferguson who has been struck down with a virus, said the "change of scenery" was designed to "take him out of the spotlight a little bit and get him concentrated".
The Rooney circus has reached extremes this week, including publicity for the burning of a Rooney effigy at a Bonfire Night event in Kent. United have therefore decided that the 25-year-old's departure from Manchester as his side face Wolves at Old Trafford today, with a return scheduled for next Saturday, is a requirement.
Considering that Rooney has only just returned from one escape from Manchester – a holiday with his wife Coleen in Dubai – the trip does raise questions about the effect of more long-distance travel on the striker, whom Phelan said he expected would miss the England friendly with France at Wembley on Wednesday week.
"We will only know [if the travel has proved counter-productive] when he comes back, but our medical team are confident that by sending him there we will get a better Wayne Rooney in a week's time than where he is at this moment," Phelan said. "Jet-lag is a possibility but he is going for seven days. We're not sending him away just for the sake of it. He is going there to do some serious work. Dubai was not anything but a break and there was not much work involved in that. But we have to get him re-focused and get him back on the job in hand, which is to play football for Manchester United. We just feel that in that environment he will come through and blossom."
No United player has been sent to the base on their own before, though Phelan said Rooney was receptive to the idea, which he claimed had come from United's medical and sports science staff. The facility is known to the club, whose players trained there during a 2003 pre-season tour of the United States.
Rooney will be heading to Nike's world headquarters where facilities included a 3km forest jogging trail, an indoor gym, running track, pool and climbing wall. The company's multi-million dollar research and development unit is also based there, though United have stressed that Rooney, who will be accompanied by United medical and sports science specialists, will not be undertaking commercial work.
Ferguson said in Turkey on Tuesday evening that Rooney had started some light jogging training last weekend and would not be fit for three weeks, though if the US trip speeds his rehabilitation, he may be back for the home game with Wigan Athletic on 20 November.
The manager is expected to have recovered from his virus to be at Old Trafford today, the 24th anniversary of his appointment as United manager. He is contemplating bringing back Ryan Giggs, who has had a hamstring injury, while Darren Fletcher, who turned his ankle against Bursaspor, is likely to unavailable.Reuse content