Rooney injury could hand Mata one last chance at Man Utd
Returning captain could be a doubt for Manchester derby, offering Spaniard a final chance to impress
Manchester United may be without Wayne Rooney for the crucial derby with neighbours Manchester City on Saturday after the forward, who has not played for his club since being sent off against West Brom a month ago, was seen limping at a commercial event at Old Trafford on Monday.
The injury is described as a foot problem by the Daily Telegraph, which says eye-witnesses saw Rooney "in visible discomfort as he walked away from a photograph on the pitch with the rest of the first-team squad".
If Rooney is unable to play it could leave manager Louis van Gaal with problems in attack. "With the Colombian forward Radamel Falcao still undergoing treatment for the thigh injury that forced him to miss the Chelsea match, Rooney's potential absence against City would be a huge blow for Van Gaal and United," says the paper.
It could mean a reprieve for Spaniard Juan Mata, who appears to be the odd man out in the United attack. Of the five main forward players at Old Trafford – Mata, Rooney, Falcao, Angel di Maria and Robin van Persie – it is the Spaniard who has been dropped when all are available.
Writing after the Chelsea game, Mark Ogden of the Telegraph said that Mata had "blown his chance" of establishing himself in the United team while Rooney was suspended.
Mata lacks the speed that Van Gaal wants in the centre of the field, or the defensive discipline to play out wide. He has also failed to make an impact against big teams. "United possess better options than Mata and Rooney's return this weekend is likely to close the door to the No 10 position," said Ogden.
If he is fit Rooney will "walk back into the United team" agrees the Manchester Evening News. It says that even though Rooney is "too immobile and tactically anarchic to thrive" in the hole behind strikers, Mata has no chance of being selected ahead of him.
However, if Rooney, or indeed Falcao, fails to make the game the Spaniard may now have one last chance to prove his worth in a United top.