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Rio England doubt sours Rooney show

MANCHESTER UTD (3) v/s WEST HAM (0)

MANCHESTER United boss Sir Alex Ferguson revealed Rio Ferdinand will miss Sunday’s Carling Cup final and is a major doubt to captain England against Egypt, after seeing a Wayne Rooney brace cut Chelsea’s lead to one point.

Ferdinand suffered a recurrence of a back problem in training yesterday which prevented him from returning from a four-match suspension against West Ham and will also keep him out of the weekend clash with Aston Villa.

More significantly for England manager Fabio Capello, the setback could sideline the centre-back for Wednesday’s friendly, in which Ferdinand, 31, was due to lead the side having been appointed skipper in place of John Terry. Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard is expected to be captain if Ferdinand fails to recover.

“He tweaked his back in training and he won’t be ready for Sunday,” said Ferguson.

“It is unfortunate for him that he’s going to miss a couple of games. Rio has been training great too.”

Ferdinand’s blow soured an otherwise satisfying night for Ferguson, who saw Rooney continue his devastating run of form with goals in each half. The England striker took his tally for the season to 27 goals before substitute Michael Owen iced the cake with a late third.

The first came in the 38th minute when Antonio Valencia volleyed a Dimitar Berbatov centre back across goal, where Rooney dived to head past Robert Green. Rooney’s second, 10 minutes into the second half, was also a header and came from a similar source, this time Berbatov’s through-ball teeing up Valencia to deliver. Rooney’s withdrawal, with Sunday’s Wembley final in mind, allowed Owen to score for the first time since his hat-trick against Wolfsburg in December, dinking into the far corner from a Scholes pass.

Victory cut Chelsea’s lead at the top, although United have played a game extra, and Ferguson quipped of Rooney’s headers: “He has been watching my videos.”

Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola, whose side lie 13th, said: “Everything he [Rooney] touches is turning to gold at the moment. He is in the kind of form that means every single opportunity can become a goal.”