Manchester United are facing an injury crisis ahead of the new season after striker Wayne Rooney joined winger Cristiano Ronaldo on the sidelines.
Rooney has not trained for more than a week after falling ill with a virus United suspect he contracted during the pre-season trip to Nigeria.
The 22-year-old is out of tonight’s friendly with Juventus and Sunday’s Community Shield clash with Portsmouth, and is a major doubt for the Premier League opener against Newcastle a week later.
United insist the virus, which has also hit midfielder Michael Carrick, is not malaria.
“It’s a virus that we believe he (Rooney) picked up in Nigeria. It’s not a nice one,” United manager Alex Ferguson said yesterday.
“The season starts in 12 days, but it’s such a bad virus that he’s not trained since we got back from Africa on 28 July. It’s a long time.”
Rooney’s illness is a further blow for double winners United, who could be without Ronaldo, last season’s 44- goal hero, until October.
Their ranks have been further depleted by a suspension to winger Nani and Brazil summoning midfielder Anderson to the Beijing Olympics. Carrick finally resumed training yesterday and could play against Portsmouth.
But with fringe striker Louis Saha looking bound for Sunderland, Ferguson is short of attacking options, and could now hasten attempts to sign Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham.
“You worry about having a team for the start of the season,” Ferguson admitted. “Nani is suspended, Anderson’s at the Olympics and I doubt if we’ll get Wayne fit for the start of the season.”
Ferguson also dispelled any lingering doubts over the future of Ronaldo, who has been courted relentlessly by Real Madrid. “The matter is closed now,” the Scot said. “He is a Manchester United player. It’s finished. He’ll be playing here next season, believe me. It’s finished.”