Football: Wayne Rooney told to play on, in pain

By James Ducker

Wayne Rooney has been out of action since damaging ligaments in his right knee in the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland. Photo / AP
Wayne Rooney has been out of action since damaging ligaments in his right knee in the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland. Photo / AP

Wayne Rooney is likely to have less than a month to prove his fitness to Roy Hodgson with the England captain targeting Manchester United's game against Aston Villa a fortnight on Saturday as his comeback.

The United striker has been out of action since damaging ligaments in his right knee in the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland on February 13 and his place in England's starting XI is under growing threat from Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.

Yet Rooney faced the threat of an even more severe injury that would have ruled him out of the European Championship finals altogether after being instructed by his United manager, Louis van Gaal, to play through the pain against Sunderland.

Despite Van Gaal's previous claims that Rooney had wanted to carry on at the Stadium of Light, it is understood that the striker actually asked to come off around the 65-minute mark of the game after realising his injury was serious.

Yet, with United drawing 1-1 and in desperate need of a win in their battle for Champions League qualification, Van Gaal asked Rooney to play on, a request to which the player adhered out of respect and a determination to try to win the game.

It is unclear if that extra 25 minutes on the field aggravated the injury but subsequent scans showed that if the tear had been any deeper Rooney would have faced the prospect of up to nine months on the sidelines.

Such a lay-off would, in addition to ruling him out of the Euros, also have prohibited Rooney's involvement in a planned charity match at Old Trafford on August 3, and forced him to miss the opening months of next season.

Hodgson is due to name his squad for the Euros in France this (northern) summer on May 12, which would give Rooney just five games for United, excluding a potential FA Cup semifinal against Everton on April 23, to demonstrate his fitness to the England manager if he returns at home to Villa.

United could play a further two games - against Bournemouth in the Premier League and possibly the FA Cup final - before Hodgson must submit his final 23-man squad for the tournament on May 31.

After this morning's friendly against Holland at Wembley England have two more friendlies before the submission deadline, with matches against Turkey on May 22 and Australia five days later.

Rooney has traditionally taken some time to get back up to speed after lengthy absences and Hodgson has insisted that the 30-year-old will not be selected solely on reputation, despite being the country's skipper and all-time leading goalscorer.

Kane and Vardy have been in outstanding form.

The Spurs and Leicester City strikers' free-scoring exploits, coupled with the return from injury of Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, have given Hodgson a welcome headache in attacking terms.

Barring a serious setback in his recovery from injury, Rooney will board the plane to France, and Ross Barkley is adamant that the captain's experience will be vital to England's youngsters at the tournament.

"He helps us younger lads with the experience he has had in the past tournaments and qualifying stages," the 22-year-old midfielder said.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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