United can cope without Rooney - VDS

BY foxsports • March 31, 2010

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar insists Manchester United have enough strength in depth to cope without talisman Wayne Rooney.

United face an anxious wait to discover the extent of the ankle injury the striker suffered in the final minute of last night's 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich.

Rooney left the Allianz Arena on crutches, with a protective boot on his right foot.

Early indications are that Rooney has suffered a sprain, which Sir Alex Ferguson claimed in the immediate aftermath of the game he hoped was "not too serious".

Yet even in the best-case scenario, it seems highly improbable Rooney will be fit for Saturday's Premier League showdown with Chelsea at Old Trafford, or the return against Bayern four days later which now must be won following Ivica Olic's injury-time winner.

It is an unpalatable thought for most United fans, given Rooney took his goals tally to 34 when he opened the scoring after just 64 seconds.

Rooney has largely been viewed as indispensable to the Red Devils this season and Alan Shearer is not on his own with a rather brutal assessment that United are a one-man team.

Now, as they approach the biggest two matches of their campaign so far, United are set to miss the 24-year-old.

Yet Van der Sar, whose man-of-the-match display ensured United do still have hope of reaching the semi-finals after a poor performance, insists they can cope.

"Against Bolton we also played with some other players," said Van der Sar.

"It can happen in the season.

"You always want your best players available but we know the players coming in can also do a good job."

In the short-term, Ferguson is expected to use Dimitar Berbatov at the head of his strike-force, as he did at Bolton on Saturday and Wolves a couple of weeks earlier, and retain the same formation that has proved so successful this season.

Should Rooney's injury stretch on into an absence of weeks, with Michael Owen and Danny Welbeck already out with calf and knee injuries, Federico Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf, neither of whom have been tested at the highest level and did not even make the bench last night, are United's only striking alternatives.

Ferguson does have the option of deploying Ryan Giggs in a more advanced role, whilst Nani, Park Ji-sung and Antonio Valencia have good attacking instincts.

However, none of the latter three have been used as a senior striker, in the manner Cristiano Ronaldo became last term.

The great fear for Rooney is that any sprain could force him onto the sidelines for a period far longer than just a couple of games.

Six weeks has been mentioned, although United will wait for results of a scan before they can place their own timescale on the situation.

United have six games of the domestic campaign remaining, after which it will be another three-and-a-half before Rooney is expected on the plane that takes England to the World Cup.

What happens in South Africa is a secondary concern to Ferguson this morning though, as he prepares for life - for however brief a time - without his talisman.

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