In Brief

Wayne Rooney returns: can he save Van Gaal from Man Utd mutiny?

Thousands turn out to watch England captain make his comeback from injury, with Van Gaal and Roy Hodgson relying on him

Normally a Monday night U21 Premier League Division One fixture between the youngsters of Manchester United and their Middlesbrough counterparts would pass with barely a murmur. But a crowd of over 6,000 were present at Old Trafford for the match, and the nation's press followed every minute of the action.

The reason? A ringer by the name of the Wayne Rooney. The England captain - at 30, a little older than the average player - played 61 minutes of the match, his first competitive football since injuring his knee in February against Sunderland. Rooney's absence in United's last 12 games has been sorely felt, which is why manager Louis van Gaal was also in the crowd to see how he fared on his return to the fray.

As one might have expected, the veteran striker had a quiet game, working his way back to match fitness while showing the odd glimpse of his class. He tested the Boro keeper with one long-range shot and also curled a free-kick over the bar, but the biggest plus for van Gaal was that Rooney came through the game unscathed.

United won the match with a goal from Paddy McNair and Van Gaal must now decide whether to include Rooney in the senior squad for tomorrow night's FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham. The competition is United's last chance for silverware in what's been another disappointing season, and after Sunday's dispiriting 3-0 defeat to Spurs in the League, which prompted a dressing room mutiny, according to The Sun, Van Gaal knows the outcome of Wednesday's match could decide his fate at the end of the season.

"This is the last chance of a title, so it is very important for the players, club, manager, fans," Van Gaal said, when asked about the importance of beating West Ham. “I think the players of Manchester United have to cope with that pressure, they have done it always... I think that also West Ham have that problem so I don't think it plays a role. Both teams have to cope with that. Both team knows that when you are not winning you are out of the cup and you don't have any title.”

Though it's unlikely Rooney will start against the Hammers, he should feature in some capacity when United host relegated Aston Villa in the League on Saturday. That will be good news for England manager Roy Hodgson, whose Three Lions face Russia on 12 June in their opening match of the European Championships.

Though Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane produced polished displays - and goals - for England in last month's friendlies against Germany and Holland, Hodgson has made no secret of the fact he wants Rooney back in the side.

"Most teams, if they are any good as teams, don't throw their captain out the first time a young player comes in and scores a goal unless the captain is playing so badly there is a clear reason for doing so," Hodgson told the Daily Mail earlier this month. "Rooney has never given us any reasons to do that and I expect him to start playing well again and I expect him to be on the plane to France.'

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