England’s Euro 2016 preparations and Manchester United’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League suffered a serious blow yesterday when Wayne Rooney was ruled out for six to eight weeks with a knee injury.
The Manchester United captain was hurt during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Sunderland and did not travel with Louis van Gaal’s depleted squad for tonight’s Europa League encounter with Midtjylland here. The United manager said Rooney may well have aggravated the injury by not coming off and attempting to win the game at the Stadium of Light.
Rooney is unlikely to return to action before April and will miss England’s two key warm-up games – against Germany in Berlin and against the Netherlands at Wembley, with Euro 2016 starting on 10 June. As far as United are concerned, his absence against Arsenal on 28 February and the Manchester derby will be especially significant.
Rooney has said that United’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League lies in winning the Europa League. However, if they overcome Midtjylland, he will not be available at least until the quarter-final stage.
“It was typical Wayne,” said the United manager, Van Gaal. “He is a guy who wants to go on to the end. If he is feeling a pain, he does not want to go off when you are drawing a match and trying to win it [as United were at Sunderland]. That is bad for his body.”
Although he suffered a debilitating loss of form mid-season, scoring once between September and the beginning of January, the agony for United is that Rooney is now in exceptional form. He has scored 14 times for United this season and seven of those have come in his last nine matches. He has scored three times in four matches for England.
No Premier League footballer has been involved in more goals in 2016 than Rooney, who has scored five and laid on three more.
Van Gaal rejected suggestions that his decision to sell strikers like Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez had left United desperately short of firepower. The only two recognised forwards in his squad are Anthony Martial and Will Keane.
“Our policy is that we do not have a big squad because if you have a big squad you cannot try out youngsters, and it is our policy to give young players a chance,” Van Gaal said. “I have called Will Keane back into the squad because he has done very well in the second team.
“Jesse Lingard is a second-year pro, more or less, and now he is playing regular football in the first team. Our right-back against Midtjylland [Donald Love] has only played one match for the club but I know from that one match how he can apply himself.
“We have 13 players out injured and, when you analyse them, they are all contact injuries, so it is all down to bad luck.”
Many of the 800 supporters who have come to Jutland to support United plan to protest during the game at the cost of the tickets. The £71 charged by the champions of Denmark is almost five times the price of attending a league match and more than three times the £22 they charged when Southampton played here in August.
“Of course, I support the fans,” said Van Gaal. “It is a big difference from the price of the game against Southampton. It shows you that Manchester United is a big team in this world. In the Netherlands you also have a big difference in prices but this is a lot. I have very much sympathy for the fans.”
Midtjylland pointed out that the prices were charged to all supporters, not just those coming from England, and that they had to reduce their capacity from 11,800 to 9,500 because Uefa does not allow standing areas.
Their manager, Jess Thorup, said: “This is probably the biggest game in the history of the club. I am very happy that the club decided to play the game in Herning, although we could have moved it to a bigger stadium.
“I have not heard a lot of complaints from our fans about the prices and everybody at the match will pay the same. I think it is a fair price and I hope everyone gets value for their money.”Reuse content