Knee injury to sideline Wayne Rooney up to three weeks

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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.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.