ENGLAND’S worst World Cup fears were in danger of being realised last night after Wayne Rooney limped off in agony with an ankle injury.
The 33-goal striker had to be helped off the field deep into injury time following a collision with Bayern’s Mario Gomez in the build-up to Ivica Olic’s injury time winner for the Germans.
Rooney’s magnificent form has led United on the cusp of a Champions League/Premier League double this season and has also seen him hailed as England’s great hope for World Cup glory in South Africa this summer.
But now both United chief Sir Alex Ferguson and Three Lions boss Fabio Capello will be biting their nails this morning in the hope his injury is not as bad as first feared.
Ferguson, for one, however, was clearly looking on the bright side. “He’s obviously hurt his ankle, we’ll know better on Wednesday,” he said. “It’s too early to say. I don’t think it’s terribly serious, but we’ll wait and see.”
Asked if he could feature in the crunch clash with Premier League titrle rivals Chelsea on Saturday, he added: “I can't answer that, we need to wait until Wednesday.”
Rooney’s injury capped a miserable night for Ferguson, who saw his side take the lead after just 64 seconds through that man Rooney, only for Franck Ribery’s deflected free-kick and Olic’s late winner to deservedly give the German giants the advantage going into the second leg.
“We just kept giving it away,” the United boss added. “Bayern were the better team and it’s a disappointing performance possession-wise. They put in a big effort but we’re better than that.”
Indeed, but for keeper Edwin van der Sar, United may have lost by more as the veteran Dutchman performed heroics in keeping out second half efforts from Ribery, Hamit Altintop and Marc van Bommel.
United went ahead with their very first attack when Martin Demichelis fouled Nani in the right-hand corner within the opening 10 seconds. The Portuguese’s free-kick looped into the box and picked out Rooney, who escaped his marker and volleyed home.
Rooney might have added a second from Darren Fletcher’s cross, but the Germans always looked dangerous at the other end – Olic somehow missing from six yards.
Van der Sar kept United in the tie as Bayern stepped up the pace after the break, and they were well worth Ribery’s equaliser 13 minutes from the end. Gary Neville was cautioned for a needless handball just outside the box and Ribery found the net a free-kick which took a wicked deflection past a flat-footed van der Sar.
Nemanja Vidic then headed against the crossbar for United, and that was to prove crucial when, in the third minute of stoppage time, Patrice Evra slipped in the box leaving Olic room to cut inside and fire past van der Sar.
TIMELINE | STORY OF THE MATCH
Rooney volleys home Nani’s deflected free-kick to give United the perfect start
Van der Sar’s heroics had saved United until Ribery’s deflected free-kick crept in
Evra slips at just the wrong time and Olic slips in to guide home the winner