Rooney injury: bad news for Man Utd but is it good for England?
Knee injury could be an opportunity rather than a problem for the national team ahead of Euro 2016
With Euro 2016 less than four months away, England have their first injury scare. Striker Wayne Rooney has been ruled out for up to two months with knee ligament damage.
If the Manchester United player (pictured above) returns on time and re-establishes himself in the final weeks of the season, England boss Roy Hodgson has little cause for concern. But if Rooney fails to recover, then it could leave the manager with a headache.
More worrying for England and United is the fact the injury has arrived just as Rooney has come into form for the first time this season. He has 14 goals this term and seven have come in his last nine games.
There is also a sense of deja vu, as the 30-year-old player has an appalling record when it comes to fitness at major international tournaments. He has gone into the last three World Cups with injury concerns and was out of shape after suspension at Euro 2012.
The injury also means Rooney will miss two crucial friendly warm-up games against Germany and Holland in March, where Hodgson will presumably try out his tactics.
"So it begins. So starts the taming of the lions," laments Henry Winter in The Times. "It always happens: a season going along so well, a smile spreading across the face of the national team manager, and then, crash, bang, wallop, what a scan picture. Another tournament year, another injury. Wayne Rooney again. So sad, so inevitable."
But while the news is terrible for United, says Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail, the timing might not be bad for England.
"Without Rooney, it is tempting to wonder how United will cope," he says. "He is not the player he once was but he still occupies defenders and his presence gives [Manchester manager Louis] Van Gaal's team shape and industry.
"For England and Hodgson, however, an enforced spell on the sidelines for Rooney may yet work out favourably - as long as he manages to play himself back into form and sharpness by the time Euro 2016 starts in early June."
Therein lies the rub, counters Winter of the Times. England supporters' "self-interest ignores that Rooney traditionally requires time to regain his sharpness", he notes.
"English football needs to look at the bigger picture, not only the immediate ramifications of a scan of a beat-up knee. Rooney’s body is a battered reminder of the need for a winter break."
"It will be intriguing to see whether Hodgson’s first-team planning might be altered if Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy can make the most of their opportunity in the next couple of international friendlies," he adds.
Then there is Danny Welbeck, who scored the winner for Arsenal against Leicester after nine months out with a knee problem, and Daniel Sturridge, "a complicated subject this season but still the player England’s management regard as the most naturally talented finisher of all their options".
He concludes that it is Van Gaal, not Hodgson, "who should feel the greater sense of anxiety".