Amid the tidal wave of commentary
surrounding Wayne Rooney’s broken foot, an intriguing battle is emerging
between the young striker’s on-field masters.

In the white corner, English coach
Sven-Goran Eriksson wants Rooney in Germany,
even if he only manages to recover in time to play during the final stages. Why
wouldn’t he want him there? Rooney is a world class striker who on a bad day still
plays better than most of his opponents. He doesn’t have to manage any
fallout from Rooney re-injuring himself, and knows that if England
is a realistic chance, a fit and firing Wayne Rooney is a key player.

In the red corner, Manchester United coach
Sir Alex Ferguson is downplaying Rooney’s chances of playing in Germany,
perhaps realistically. But you don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see that Ferguson has a keen
interest in Rooney resting up, healing well, and being injury-free for the
start of the premier league season in August, just a month after the World Cup
concludes.

If things get nasty, Ferguson has the FA
rules on his side
. Clubs are
obliged to release players for internationals unless there is “good and sufficient cause not to do so”. Under the rules,
injury is a good and sufficient cause, and the FA reserves the right to make
the judgement based on the opinion of its own medical personnel.

Which places Ferguson marginally
ahead in the public point scoring. As The Times reported, Eriksson will name
Rooney in his squad but Manchester United will reserve the right to withdraw
him from the squad right up until 5 June, when the English team heads across
the Channel.

Ferguson is a consummate media performer and thus far he has only been
bluntly honest about the young striker’s chances. Eriksson is perhaps only
guilty of being too optimistic, too publicly. Scans today will give everyone a
better idea of his chances of recovery, and England’s
chances at the World Cup.

For their part, English bookies don’t like
his chances at all, yesterday offering 4-9 on his NOT playing at the World Cup.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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