Put away those Jump to Conclusions Mats, Manchester United fans. And tear up those tin foil hats while you’re at it. By and large, Wayne Rooney is fine despite missing today’s carnival against Newcastle. Though that doesn’t mean he’s fully fit, either.
After Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the visiting Magpies, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson divulged Rooney suffered a knee injury while hitting a volley at the end of Tuesday practice. The result, per Ferguson, is Rooney suffering “strained a ligament behind the knee.
“It’s unfortunate, and he could be out for two to three weeks.”
It’s the type of injury which would be suspicious were it suffered right before an international break. Since the next FIFA date isn’t for a month and a half, we can table our cynicism. This knock seems legit.
However, if you have to pick a time for a player to miss three weeks, this is as good a stretch as any. Though the Red Devils made a meal of it, Newcastle at home is not a tough match. Coming up, the league leaders will get West Brom, Wigan, West Ham, and Liverpool. That certainly could be worse.
While Manchester United is destined to find the most difficult way to approach each match, they’ll also have a chance to learn how to play without Rooney. Particularly in the midfield (where Rooney’s tendency to drop help augments United’s weaknesses), the Red Devil midfielders could do to stand out their own two feet.
Michael Carrick has been quietly great in a regista-esque role, but everything between him and Rooney has been a sinkhole. Ferguson needs somebody to step up.
Three weeks without Rooney will give somebody that chance. Ideally, that player is Tom Cleverley, already the person Ferguson’s turning to in big matches. But it could be Anderson, Darren Fletcher, or Paul Scholes.
Heading into the Jan. 13 North West derby (which Rooney’s unlikely to miss), a series of players have a chance to show they can help offset Liverpool’s three-man middle. Now’s the time to step up.