Wayne Rooney's fitness is doubtless a topic that Sir Alex Ferguson wishes would just go away.
Yesterday, the Manchester United manager cancelled his usual pre-match press conference ahead of today's home game against West Bromwich Albion, and granted just one local radio station the chance to ask for his assessment of Rooney's declaration this week that he has not been suffering from an ankle injury.
"It is water off a duck's back to me," Ferguson said, after the striker's statement seemed to contradict his manager's explanation for why he missed the games against Valencia and Sunderland prior to the international break."I don't know where all these things come from. He is always in the spotlight and being discussed by the press. It is important how you handle it in my experience. But it just runs off me. It doesn't mean anything."
Perhaps. But regardless of what it means, Ferguson can expect the topic to be the prime focus of his encounter with the media on Tuesday in the run-up to United's Champions League game with Bursaspor at Old Trafford. Of more irritation for Ferguson yesterday was surgeon Dr Richard Steadman's declaration on Wednesday that Owen Hargreaves would make his comeback against West Bromwich.
Ferguson has always praised Steadman's ability at rescuing players whose careers appear to be in jeopardy. United were happy to let Steadman treat Hargreaves for an extended period after the operations on both knees in October 2008 that were geared towards some kind of a recovery from the tendinitis problem that has plagued the midfielder ever since he moved from Bayern Munich three years ago for £17m.
Ferguson even sent Hargreaves back to Steadman for more rehabilitation work this summer when the 29-year-old suffered a setback in pre-season training. However, as the England player approaches a comeback many view as his final chance of saving his career, Ferguson has found it rather less welcome that Steadman's opinions have strayed away from medicine and to the football field.
"We are having difficulty with the doctor in Colorado coming out with statements that are not accurate," said Ferguson. "It is not fair to the player for him to say Owen is going to be playing. It is ridiculous. I pick the team and I have been doing it for quite a while. We have this small interference, which is causing some confusion. Owen is not ready. He is out with a calf injury."
There definitely seems to be some confusion at Old Trafford, but not all of it can be blamed on a knee surgeon from North America.
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