By Paul Clennam
Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney faces a crucial 48 hours in his recovery from injury as Sir Alex Ferguson considers risking the forward against rivals Manchester City on Monday night.
The 27-year-old has still not trained since picking up a groin injury on international duty with England, and will be monitored in the coming days ahead of a late fitness test prior to the match.
Rooney was forced to miss the Red Devils’ FA Cup sixth-round replay defeat against Chelsea and club staff are wary of upping the ante too soon and hampering his recovery.
But Sir Alex is aware that victory over Roberto Mancini’s side would almost guarantee the Premier League title, and is ready to throw the striker back into action.
“He got a groin injury playing for England and he wasn’t 100 per cent [Sunday],” said Sir Alex prior to the cup loss at Stamford Bridge, though remained optimistic of the forward’s chances of featuring against City.
“There’s no point risking a player with a groin injury. Hopefully he’ll be ready for next Monday’s game.”
Rooney’s return will be welcome news given the faltering form of Robin van Persie in recent weeks.
The Dutchman’s failure to net against Chelsea extended his goal drought for the league leaders to nine games, while Rooney has bagged eight goals in 12 matches since the turn of the year, and struck twice for the Three Lions during the recent international break.
Sir Alex’s eagerness to select Rooney represents a remarkable turnaround for the England forward, who was dropped from the side to face Real Madrid in the Champions League, with his manager stating that he is the type of player who "needs games".
Real Madrid director of football Zinedine Zidane has expressed his belief that Gareth Bale is “not far off” playing at the same level as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The Welshman has scored 17 goals in 27 Premier League appearances this term to lead Spurs' chase for a top-four finish - form which has seen him strongly linked with a summer move to the Spanish capital.
And three-time Ballon d'Or winner Zidane has fuelled further speculation by choosing to enthuse about the winger despite being asked which player had impressed him most in this season's Champions League.
“This year the player who has impressed me most is not actually playing in the Champions League," he told Sky Sports. "He is playing in "the other cup" [Europa League], and that is [Gareth] Bale.
"You can't compare him, he is unique, he makes things look easy, his pace is frightening. His acceleration is unbelievable because of his ability to go through the gears in very little space.
"Plus, he is very good technically which is also important, we must not forget that he plays football well.
"He’s really impressed me. I’ve seen him two or three times live, including recently at Lyon, which wasn’t necessarily his best game, but where every time he got the ball he can surprise you.
"He’s perhaps not quite at the level of the other two [Ronaldo & Messi], but he’s different. So personally I don’t think he’s far off."
Bayern Munich a precious victory at home to Juventus two goals without reply in the match at the Allianz Arena in the first leg quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Bilateral scored Bayern defender left Alaba in the first minute of the match with a powerful shot deceptively veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after he changed direction, and midfielder Muller of a follow-up to Gustavo shot in the 63rd minute.
The two sides meet again on Juventus Arena in the Italian city of Turin to determine the identity of the finalist said Cambjons League final.