The news that striker Wayne Rooney is struggling with a serious toe injury is a devastating blow to Manchester United’s Champions League hopes. The England International did not play in United’s impressive 4-0 win at struggling Newcastle on Saturday and faces a race against time for Wednesday’s second leg in Munich.
The news has distinct echoes from the tournament in 2010 when Rooney was declared doubtful by Sir Alex Ferguson after injuring his ankle in the first leg. He did actually play in the return leg but United still lost to Bayern Munich on away goals. The news may be greeted with some scepticism in Munich but it is difficult to under-estimate how important Rooney is to United’s prospects of reaching the semi-finals.
David Moyes is already struggling for big names with an injury to Robin van Persie and Saturday’s star player Juan Mata cup-tied. Rooney’s influence was very evident in the first leg when United held on for a 1-1 draw despite being largely outplayed by the reigning champions. Bayern would probably have taken the result beforehand as it gives them the away goal advantage, but they could easily have come away with a victory.
Rooney was also involved in the late incident which resulted in Bayern goal-scorer Bastian Schweinsteiger being sent off, although he has refuted allegations that he dived. Video replays suggested that Schweinsteiger made contact with the ball before Rooney tripped over him. The striker is automatically banned from the second leg but Bayern still have plenty of attacking options.
Not for the first time, it was Arjen Robben who tormented the Man United defence. The former Chelsea winger came close on a number of occasions and is certain to play a leading role on Wednesday night. The Dutchman knocked United out in 2010 and looks to be in the kind of form to repeat the dose this week.
Moyes will take heart from a confidence-boosting win at Newcastle having made eight changes from the team which battled to a draw in the first leg. Goalkeeper David de Gea has received his fair share of criticism this season and was rested for the game on Tyneside. He played a fine match against Bayern and will need to be at his very best on Wednesday if United are to progress. With or without Rooney, the Red Devils will go into the match as underdogs.