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Is bad luck for United good news for England?


SOCCER-ENGLAND/ROONEYManchester United announced on Thursday that Wayne Rooney suffered only “minor ligament damage” to his ankle in Tuesday’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

“We’re pleased to report that Wayne has not suffered a fracture,” a United spokesperson said and manager Alex Ferguson will say how many games his in-form striker is likely to miss at his news conference on Friday before Saturday’s top-of-the-table Premier League clash against Chelsea.

Rooney, who has scored 34 goals this season, sparked fears he would miss England’s World Cup campaign in South Africa when he limped out of United’s 2-1 quarter-final first-leg defeat at the Allianz Arena.

He looks certain to miss the Chelsea match and probably the second leg against Bayern on Wednesday but could United’s misfortune turn out to be a blessing for England?

Protesting United fans need a reality check


Two European Cup finals in two years, three straight Premier League titles, a first ever win at AC Milan and yet Manchester United fans are not a happy bunch.

Before Tuesday’s 3-2 Champions League last 16 first leg win at the San Siro, a large group of United fans spent most of the afternoon swigging beer in Milan’s central square – Piazza Duomo.

Predictions league hails the power of Drogba


Didier Drogba’s second goal in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Arsenal was the epitome of the Chelsea striker’s immense power.

It’s hard to know how any defence can stop him, even Inter Milan’s…

United in the nick of time


SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPNot for the first time this season, Manchester United stunned Manchester City in injury-time and clawed out a win that took them through to next month’s League Cup final against Aston Villa, while making a point to their ambitious neighbours.

Wayne Rooney’s late header was also a reminder that for all the weaknesses of this particular team, even with Cristiano Ronaldo gone to Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez off to Eastlands, United retain an uncanny ability to swing games their way in the face of adversity. Against the odds, they are somehow still on course for a treble.

Rooney’s relentless workload must worry Capello


QATAR/Fabio Capello hates the concept of “one-man teams” but the England manager faces an anxious few months watching Wayne Rooney shoulder a punishing workload at Manchester United.

The striker is far and away United’s most important player this season as he takes up the slack left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s summer move to Real Madrid and his value to his club is matched by that to his country.

England sail through, but how are their World Cup chances?


So, once again, England qualify in style. The garages can start stocking up on plastic flags of St George, the breweries can breathe a sigh of relief and the tabloids can start their gradual shift from cautious support to the crescendo of expectation that will accompany Fabio Capello and his squad to South Africa next year.

But is there any evidence that “this time, more than any other time, they’ll do it right“?

The goals will come for Owen, so should an England recall


Michael Owen missed four glorious chances in Manchester United’s 2-0 friendly win over Valencia but the very fact that he was there to miss them signals a real chance of the former Liverpool reviving his career for club and country.

Owen’s failure to find the net was described as a wasted opportunity by some, given that England coach Fabio Capello was there watching him, but consider … playing for Newcastle at the end of last season, when did he look in with a chance of scoring even one?

Gentlemen. No swearing please!


Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Gary Mabbutt said recently that he never swore once during his 19-year career that ended in 1998.

It’s ironic, for nowhere is swearing more prevalent than in soccer. Over the years foul language has cemented itself as part of football culture.