Three words appeared on the back pages of a national newspaper this week that will have sent shivers down the spines of every England fan in the country: 'Rooney injury scare'.
Actually, they weren't the exact words used - The Sun's subs came up with the ingenious 'Pain Roo knee' instead - but the sentiment was the same, as was the initial reaction the headline prompted - mild panic.
What will England do without Wayne Rooney at the World Cup? It doesn't bear thinking about, an absolute nightmare scenario for Fabio Capello, and one which is certain to plague the England coach all the way to South Africa.
As the headline suggests, Rooney is struggling to shake off a problem with his knee, which apparently flares up after every game and requires treatment - he spent four hours at Old Trafford after his goalscoring performance in the weekend's win over Liverpool in a bid to quell the swelling.
Having been told three weeks ago it would clear up it now only seems to be getting worse and with less than three months before England kick off their campaign against the US, Capello must also be suffering - from sleepless nights.
Forget about the fallout from John Terry-gate, should Rooney's injury hamper him further, Capello will have the mother of all headaches to deal with. Fortunately, for the moment the injury is not yet bad enough to keep him from playing but clearly what Rooney needs is some rest.
Of course, there are two major flaws to that particular solution. The first is Rooney himself, whose very nature means he would never willingly take a breather unless absolutely necessary. He is a player who is never happy unless he is out on the pitch, giving his all and covering every blade of grass. The thought of sitting on the sidelines is abhorrent to the likes of Rooney.
And then there is Alex Ferguson, who would sooner share a bottle of claret with Rafa Benitez than kowtow to the national side's needs and give Rooney time off as his side close in on a Premier League and Champions League double. Rightly so, it should be added.
Yes, you can be sure that Rooney will continue at 100 miles per hour from now until the end of the season but such is willingness to always give 110 per cent, there is a feeling a major injury setback is just around the corner.
And wouldn't it just be England's luck for that to happen on the eve of the World Cup, a tournament the Three Lions have been touted as capable of winning, as long as they have a fully fit and healthy squad.
Integral to that is Rooney, possibly to the point of over-reliance. Yet considering his red-hot form - and the decline of other normally influential players in Capello's squad - that is entirely understandable.
It's simple: he is irreplaceable and England are a far poorer side without him. Rooney absolutely must shake off this niggle and travel to South Africa fully fit if this England side are to fulfil their potential - and maybe even end those 44 years of hurt. The question is: how? Perhaps it really is time to panic.
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