Manchester United's Wayne Rooney banishes World Cup fears after winning PFA award
Wayne Rooney, who was last night named PFA Player of the Year, has allayed fears over his fitness for the World Cup by declaring he will return for Manchester United’s potentially decisive final Premier League game of the season against Stoke City.
He missed Saturday’s win over Spurs, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson suggesting that he would be missing for “two or three weeks”.
But those fears have now been allayed, with Rooney confirming last night that he expects to have recovered in time for the meeting with Stoke at Old Trafford on May 9, a game that could yet determine the outcome of this season’s Premier League title race.
The striker has also reassured England’s general manager, Franco Baldini, that he will be fully fit for South Africa.
“The groin will be fine for the World Cup, there are no worries about that,” he said. “I’m hoping to play for United in the last game of the season.”
That news will be a relief both to Ferguson and Fabio Capello, who has been anxiously monitoring his striker’s fitness ever since he suffered the ankle injury in the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich earlier this month.
England’s first group game is not until June 12, when they face the United States in Rustenburg, but the squad are due to leave for a training camp in Austria on May 17 and to play Mexico in a friendly at Wembley on May 24.
Another layer of gloss was applied to Rooney’s season last night when he was confirmed as the runaway winner of the PFA Award, beating off competition from Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and Manchester City forward Carlos Tévez.
Rooney, who helped United win the Carling Cup, has scored 34 goals for the club this season, his best-ever tally, and this is the fourth successive season that an Old Trafford player has received the accolade after Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo (twice).
The 24 year-old was anxious to pay credit to Ferguson’s role in his development and backed the Scot to continue in charge at Old Trafford for many seasons to come.
“Sir Alex has really brought me on as a player since I joined United,” he said. “His hunger passes through to the players. It’s great to see that he’s pushing 70 and hasn’t changed a bit. I’m sure he’ll be here for a long time yet.”
Rooney’s only disappointment last night was his failure to win the Young Player of the Year award, for which he was also nominated. Instead, that honour went to Aston Villa’s James Milner.
The PFA divisional team of the year contains four United players, spearheaded by Rooney.
Arsenal, whose title challenge fell away in the final rounds, supply Fabregas and Thomas Vermaelen and there are also two from Chelsea in Drogba and Branislav Ivanovic.