After last night’s dramatic events, it is the turn of Manchester United tonight in the Champions League to upset the odds against one of the great powerhouses of European football.
Many had written the Premier League Champions off after a season of disappointment which has seen them slump to 7th in the table on the back of a series of underwhelming performances. Contrast this to a Bayern Munich side that have already wrapped up the Bundesliga title at a canter and are playing some of the best football on the continent and you can see why there was such apprehension ahead of the tie.
United’s courageous 1-1 draw at Old Trafford has at least kept them in the tie, and regardless of the outcome they have at least fared better than most would have believed possible. But like so much of the season United’s hopes rest on the shoulders of a worrying few. The Champions are hardly blessed with a squad of all round quality, with the likes of Rooney and Van Persie carrying the burden for so many others.
This is the reason why the decision to play Wayne Rooney tonight is so controversial, United do not have a readymade replacement for him, certainly not of the same quality. The Englishman is set to play through the pain of a chipped toe thanks in part to a series of injections that United have sanctioned over the last few days. David Moyes ran the rule over the striker’s situation during his pre-match press conference:
“We think it’s OK because we wouldn’t do anything wrong. We take advice from our doctors.
“Everybody knows the character Wayne is. He is determined to play and if he is determined we’d be mad not to (play him).
“We’ve not had clarification on the injury yet.”
The cavalier approach that United have taken here is just symptomatic of how desperate they have become; without Wayne Rooney their hopes would fade fast. The Englishman has the tireless work rate to help nullify Bayern, but also the attacking menace to make United’s brief spells of possession really count.
This is all well and good for Manchester United, but is it not a little selfish heading into a World Cup?
Wayne Rooney may not feel a thing when he plays on that toe, but injections cannot help prevent 90 minutes of football further aggravating an injury of that nature. England fans will surely remember the injury that Rooney picked up on the same ground four years ago that blighted his campaign in South Africa so badly.
Is it really worth risking weeks of rehabilitation for one last 90-minute hurrah in Europe for United? United would probably argue that it is, they are effectively out of both the title and top four races, out of the domestic cups and so Europe remains their last opportunity for success. Rooney’s inclusion transforms what is a borderline impossibility into something that is achievable for United.
Of course it is selfish, but why should United care about England’s World Cup. The player is keen to play and even with the injection the likelihood is that he will recover and be fit well ahead of the summer. United are being perfectly reasonable, they pay the players wages and their interest’s come ahead of any international side as far as they are concerned.
Roy Hodgson may be at pains to allow his star man to play through injury, but he is powerless and rightfully so when it comes to a game of this magnitude for Manchester United. There is supposedly nothing like representing your country at the World Cup, but I would imagine a Champions League Quarter Final against Bayern Munich comes in pretty close.
Manchester United aren’t under any obligation to rest Rooney and allow him to recover, from an England perspective you would want him wrapped up in cotton wool but that just isn’t going to happen. Rooney gives United an outside shot at causing an upset tonight, and I doubt many would be selfish enough to take that opportunity away from the club.
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