MANCHESTER UNITED will learn today whether striker Wayne Rooney is available or banned for tomorrow night’s heavyweight Premier League clash at Chelsea.
Rooney faces a possible three-match suspension after he appeared to elbow Wigan’s James McCarthy during Saturday’s 4-0 win, which saw United re-establish a four-point lead at the top of the table.
But the prospect of any punishment hinges on whether referee Mark Clattenburg saw the elbow, or blew his whistle for another offence. The answer lies in his match report for the Football Association, which will be examined today.
If Clattenburg did see it and opted only to give a foul, then the FA are likely to feel unable to take further action. If, however, the official admits he did not see the elbow the door will be open for retrospective disciplinary action.
A charge of violent conduct carries a three-match ban and, under new fast-track procedures introduced this season, could be implemented, even allowing for an appeal, before tomorrow’s pivotal clash.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted in the aftermath of Saturday’s win that he feared the media would use the episode as an excuse to “electrocute” Rooney, whose private life has been the subject of much scrutiny in the last 12 months.
Losing the talismanic former Everton trainee would be a huge blow before facing Chelsea in a match that could go a long way to determining whether the league title leaves Stamford Bridge for Old Trafford in May.
The Blues are 15 points off the pace but still represent daunting opponents in a fixture that was due to take place in December but was postponed and ultimately rearranged due to snow.
Police probe Cole air rifle claims
CHELSEA’S preparations for a match that represents their best hope of derailing Manchester United’s title charge have been plunged into chaos by allegations that defender Ashley Cole accidentally shot a work experience student with an air rifle.
Police last night said they would investigate the alleged incident, which is said to have happened at the club’s Cobham training ground, while Chelsea said they were taking “appropriate action”, having fully looked into the matter.
A spokesman for Surrey police said: “While no direct allegation has been made to us, the matter has been brought to our attention through the media, and we will be contacting the club to establish whether any criminal offence has been committed.”