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Wayne Rooney horror injury overshadows win

Sunday, 26 August 2012 - 2:39pm IST Updated: Sunday, 26 August 2012 - 2:47pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
First the manager's axe and then a trip to hospital. A bad day could not have ended much worse for Wayne Rooney.
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First the manager's axe and then a trip to hospital. A bad day could not have ended much worse for Wayne Rooney.

Dropped to the bench by Sir Alex Ferguson following his insipid performance against Everton on Monday, overshadowed by the majestic home debuts of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa and then badly injured in the dying seconds of his half-hour substitute appearance.

The only consolation for the Manchester United forward was that he at least collected win bonus at the end of this edgy 3-2 victory against Fulham.

By the time the final whistle blew, however, Rooney was back in the United dressing-room having stitches inserted into a deep, six-inch wound on his right thigh. He had to be carried off on a stretcher following a freak clash with Fulham forward Hugo Rodallega. After blocking Rodallega's stoppage time free-kick, Rooney's thigh was sliced open by the Colombian's boot as he planted his foot following his shot. Rooney instantly signalled his agony to referee Kevin Friend before collapsing to the ground.

Such was United's concern, the 26 year-old was taken to hospital to repair the damage that will keep on the sidelines for a month, ruling him out of England's World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine and the start of the Champions League group stages.

With Rooney struggling to find his fitness following a delayed return to pre-season training in the wake of Euro 2012 - an issue central to Ferguson's decision to drop him to the bench against Fulham - his potential month-long absence will do little to accelerate his return to top form.

But while United would, in the past, have been damaged by the loss of their star forward for a prolonged period of time, the early performances of Van Persie and Kagawa suggest that there will be little need to rush Rooney back on this occasion.

Against Fulham, the pair were unplayable at times, both justifying the combined pounds 39?million it required to lure them to Old Trafford. Damien Duff's third-minute opener for Fulham, when he escaped Ashley Young before converting Bryan Ruiz's cross from six yards, merely delayed the pyrotechnics from United's most eye-catching summer signings.

United were level within seven minutes when Van Persie marked his home debut with a stunning first goal for his new club. The Dutch forward had already linked brilliantly with Kagawa and Antonio Valencia, before beating goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with a powerful left-foot strike. His goal came from Patrice Evra's cross, when Van Persie escaped defender Brede Hangeland before aiming a half-volley into the net from 12 yards.

"It was a fantastic strike," Ferguson said. "It showed just what a quality finisher he is." Buoyed by the opener, United took control of the game, with Kagawa tearing Fulham apart with his vision and cutting passes.

And the Japanese midfielder was rewarded for his industry on 35 minutes when he put United ahead from six yards. Fulham had failed to clear Van Persie's corner and, after Schwarzer had parried Tom Cleverley's 20-yard strike, Kagawa was on hand to score from the rebound.

United's dominance without Rooney was emphasised on 41 minutes when full-back Rafael made it 3-1, moments after having a goal ruled out due to offside, with an impressive far-post header from Young's cross.

Rafael was a threat to Fulham all day long down the right flank, but just like his fellow United defenders, he had a day to forget.

Hamstrung by the injury-enforced absences of Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling - Jonny Evans was fit only to take a place on the bench - United invited Fulham forward in the second half, putting goalkeeper David de Gea under pressure. Moussa Dembele tested De Gea twice from distance, with Ruiz and Mladen Petric also forcing the Spanish goalkeeper into important saves.

But De Gea's weakness in dealing with aerial balls reared its head again on 64 minutes when Fulham equalised following a Vidic own goal. Matthew Briggs's cross should have been routine for De Gea, but he collided with Vidic and Petric before the ball bounced in off the United defender's heel.

It was poor goalkeeping and it could have been worse had Fulham capitalised from any of their late chances. Rooney's block from Rodallega highlighted how United were forced to put their bodies on the line to claim the victory, but it came at a high cost for the substitute.

 


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