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Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney's absence against Valencia could be a blessing

29 Sep 2010 06:32:27

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney's absence against Valencia could be a blessing

There was a timewhen the absence ofWayne Rooney representedsomething ofa serious problem forManchester United. But tonight it will offer Sir AlexFerguson and his players somerespite from the unwelcomedistractions created by their starstriker in recent months. Yesterday Ferguson was askedmore about a player he hadleft behind in Manchester thanthose who will take on Valencia inGroup C. Spot of bother: Wayne Rooney will miss the next three weeks The questions focused as muchon the state of Rooney's mind ashis injured ankle and came frompeople who suspect that a three weeklay-off is not simply a way oftaking him out of the public eye. Damaging publicity about his lifeaway from the pitch a prolongedmulti-million-pound legal battlewith his former agents, photographsof him smoking and urinatingagainst a wall during a latenight out and, of course, the allegationsof his extramarital infidelities would not have had as mucheffect on Rooney or his team-matesif he was actually scoring goals. Just one, from the penalty spot atWest Ham, is a poor return from aplayer who managed 34 in all competitionsfor his club last season. Ferguson brought Rooney, 24,back from his last ankle injury assoon as he reasonably could for lastseason's Champions Leaguequarter-final second legagainst Bayern Munich, buthe is unlikely to do thesame this time. After all, United's recordwithout him is quite goodand there is an opportunityfor the likes of MichaelOwen, Federico Machedaand Javier Hernandez tostake their claim for aplace alongsideDimitar Berbatov. Bombardment: Sir Alex Ferguson has been forced to answer a load of questions about his star striker Owen, in particular,has shownremarkable patience and might feelhe deserves a chance after hisequaliser at Bolton on Sunday,when Rooney was replaced withmore than half an hour left. Ferguson's other major selectiondilemma concerns Rio Ferdinand.The England captain has yet toplay in the league this season,featuring only in the openingChampions League game againstRangers and last week's CarlingCup win at Scunthorpe. Ferdinand has beenrecovering from the knee injury hesuffered before the World Cup butthe biggest concern remains theback problem that has dogged himfor nearly two years, limiting him to61 of United's last 103 games. He stood in the aisle for much ofyesterday's flight to Spain andthere is little doubt he has beenmissed, judging by United's poordefensive record this season. A team that let in 22 goals on theirway to winning the title in 2009 withFerdinand and Nemanja Vidic atthe heart of their defence, hasalready leaked nine in six gameswith Jonny Evans alongside Vidic. But Ferguson insisted he hasyet to make a final decision,saying: 'Rio has had plenty oftraining and a couple ofreserve games. He had agame against Rangers and Ithink he probably needsanother game or two. Will he or won't he: Could Rio Ferdinand play against Valencia given United's poor defensive form? 'That goes without sayingconsidering he's been outfor five months, that'swhy I didn't riskhim againstBolton. Theimportant thing is that he's coming back and we canlook forward to having him back.' The goalless draw with Rangersmeans United can ill afford to losein a country where they have onlybeaten Spanish opposition once in18 attempts against DeportivoLa Coruna in 2002. Despite selling star players DavidVilla and David Silva in the summer,Valencia are top of La Liga andare unbeaten this season. Theyhave not lost at home in Europe in11 games and Ferguson is under noillusions about the task facing histeam without the likes of Rooney,Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. He said: 'When the draw came outwe had to recognise where thedanger is and Valencia's record inthis competition guaranteed thatthey would be favourites with us toqualify. 'It was a disappointingresult for us in the first game butwe have five more to qualify.Valencia's home record over theyears has been good and we'd befoolish not to respect that. It'simportant that we imposeourselves.' Waiting in the wings: Manchester United striker Michael Owen could play in place of Rooney Rooney will not be the only onewith his feet up watching tonight'sgame. A general strike in Spain willnot jeopardise the game but it mayaffect United's plans to fly home. Ferguson was delayed last weekbecause of industrial action byFrench air traffic controllers afterwatching Valencia against AtleticoMadrid. A former shop steward, hewas unlikely to complain too much. I was involved in a couple of strikesmyself,' he laughed. 'I'm aware of itand hopefully we'll be able to leaveas normal. It's an inconvenience butthese things happen.' There was still time for one of thelocals to ask the United boss abouthis secret to still be managing atthe highest level at the age of 68. 'I can only say you need energy,'replied Ferguson. 'You have to liveyour life the right way and I'vealways been a saint. Eat the rightfood, drink the right wine and you'llbe OK. And by the way, I'm 93!'  Rooney injury rocks United and England as striker out for three weeksMan United jet out to Valencia as injured Rooney is left behind at homeMatt Lawton: Give Rooney time... he is suffering with more than an ankle injury


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