Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to start with Wayne Rooney in their Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday night smacked of desperation.
Less than a week after Rooney had been ruled out for "two to four weeks" with an ankle ligament injury sustained in the quarter-final first-leg against Bayern, the England striker was back out on the pitch at Old Trafford.
The move certainly had a galvanizing affect on the Manchester United team and their supporters as the Red Devils were 2-0 up within seven minutes at a raucous Old Trafford. But as the first-half progressed, Rooney began showing signs of visible discomfort and although he signaled to the United bench that he was ok to continue, the inevitable substitution was made 10 minutes into the second-half.
Ferguson may blame the Bayern players for 'targeting' Rooney, but how can a medical prognosis of "two to four weeks" transform into a recovery time of a week?
The truth is that Ferguson left himself light in attack last summer, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez both leaving, and only Michael Owen and Mame Biram Diouf coming in. Owen picked up his inevitable hamstring injury to rule him out for the rest of the season and Diouf is obviously not ready for the rigors of Premier League soccer every week. This means that in Rooney's absence, United can only call on the workshy Dimitar Berbatov and the rookie Federico Macheda, hence Rooney's rushed return.
The former Everton striker is lionhearted and would no doubt have told Ferguson he was fit to play. The Scot also praised United's medical staff -who must surely take much of the blame for passing him fit- for hastening Rooney's apparent recovery, but the fact is his ankle was nowhere near 100%, otherwise he would not have suffered a reoccurrence of the injury.
Rooney's talent is clear for all to see and it is understandable that Ferguson wanted him back in the line-up. Although the reoccurrence is not thought to be serious, there was an element of the 'all or nothing' about this decision, born out of a lack of alternatives and an over-reliance on one player.
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