Either Wayne Rooney stepped on the crack of a sidewalk and crossed paths with a black cat at the same time he was trying to pick up a penny on its tails side, or he hasn’t been drinking his milk.
Whatever the case may be, for the second time in three months, and for the fourth time in the last three years, the ever-rising Manchester United and England star is shelved for an extended period of time for a bad break.
At least the first three times (all breaks in his foot), the injuries occurred during a game.
But this time really takes the cake. Rooney was just horsing around in practice, playing a little head tennis, when according to Sir Alex Ferguson, he got his foot caught in a net support and fell awkwardly.
Come on, man! As many times as you’ve been through this before, you would stay away from anything you could get tangled with, trip over, or fall in or on.
The injury comes at a bad time, not just for club and country, but for Rooney himself, as he was having the best run of his career in this last month.
He had made a quick and successful comeback from his most recent injury, a hairline fracture in his foot that occurred in the league opener against Reading, but his return gave a massive lift to a United squad that had struggled to find the net in the early going.
He had scored in all but one of seven club matches since his return in a Champions League match against Roma on Oct. 2, and would be a perfect seven for seven if an apparent goal against Arsenal wasn’t credited as a William Gallas own goal.
In five of the seven matches, Manchester United tallied four goals, after scoring two goals in a game only once in the previous nine matches (seven league, one Champions League, one Carling Cup match) to open the campaign.
And not only was he on fire for his club, he had also broken his 11-month international drought, scoring goals in both of England’s Euro 2008 qualifiers in October.
But now, instead of suiting up for a crucial qualifier against Croatia, and helping United continue their excellent starts domestically and continentally, Rooney will be out for the next four weeks.
Coming back from injury hasn’t been an issue. Every time he’s been hurt, he’s come back with a vengeance.
After coming back from his first broken metatarsal, which occurred in a Euro 2004 quarterfinal match against Portugal, Rooney recorded a hat-trick in his United debut in a Champions League rout of Fenerbahc.
Then, after the second metatarsal break, in April of 2006, he made a speedy recovery, returning for the World Cup when his status for the competition had been in doubt.
And then, after the third break, he’d come back to have this recent stretch, which has been interrupted by another misfortune.
You can expect him to be back on the pitch soon, back to the same form that has more than earned him the privilege of wearing the legendary 10 shirt.
But, Sir Alex and Steve McLaren are no doubt hoping that the impact of his absence will be minimal, as both are entering a crucial period.
Rooney’s production as a goalscorer is definitely going to be missed, but it’s his abilities as a creator and a playmaker that make him so important.
Manchester United’s firepower will lessen slightly, but as shown by Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn, they should be able to get on fine, as the fixture list is relatively kind during his expected absence – a trip to struggling Bolton comes after the international break, followed by a Champions League match against Sporting at Old Trafford, then home ties against Fulham and Derby.
If he recovers quickly enough, he’ll make his return, as he did last month, against Roma, in Manchester United’s last CL group match, and will be in the lineup for back-to-back matches against Liverpool and Everton before Christmas.
While he’s out, Louis Saha re-enters the starting lineup, and though he might not get the opportunities he would like, he is a reliable replacement.
And, with Rooney on the shelf, that means Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez will get the opportunity to unleash their full arsenal of weapons on the upcoming opponents. While Rooney has been hot recently, so has Ronaldo, who now has nine goals in the last nine matches, and is well on his way to equaling or surpassing last season’s 23-goal haul. And, Tevez, after a rough start, has settled in, and is displaying the abilities that made him such a must-have in the summer, as shown by that brilliant goal last week in the rout of Dynamo Kiev.
And, besides those two, United have several others who can be counted on to step up, like Nani, who has made an immediate impact since his arrival from Sporting.
His loss is likely going to be more significant internationally, because the Three Lions will be going into a must-win encounter without one of their biggest weapons. After scoring only one goal in four previous qualifiers, England had scored 15 goals in their last five matches before the 2-1 loss in Russia. And against a Croatian side that has allowed only four goals in 11 qualifying matches, it’s a blow to lose one of your top attacking options when opportunities are going to be at a premium.
If England can get a little help from Israel and take care of business against Croatia, he and everyone else will breathe a great sigh of relief, especially McLaren, who’s future could be on the line depending on how the next week-plus transpires.
But, for the sake of club and country, and for those who love to watch his excellence, hopefully England’s brightest star will be back soon – and please, for his sake, that he’s got his legs and feet insured.