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By ESPN Staff
Apr 29, 2006

Rooney's World Cup in jeopardy

Sven-Goran Eriksson must now decide whether to take the biggest gamble of his time as England manager after it was confirmed Wayne Rooney will be out for six weeks after breaking his foot at Stamford Bridge.

Rooney was stretchered off during Manchester United's 3-0 defeat by Chelsea, having suffered the injury in a challenge for possession with Paulo Ferreira.

And, despite the reassurances of Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who claimed after the game he had been told by United staff Rooney was `okay', the initial fears as Rooney was taken down the tunnel have now been confirmed.

'Wayne Rooney has fractured the base of the fourth metatarsal on the right foot and he will be out for six weeks,' said United in a short statement tonight.

Rooney travelled back to Manchester with his team-mates before heading straight to a private hospital in nearby Whalley Range, where the precise extent of his injury was diagnosed.

And, with England's opening World Cup game against Paraguay on June 10 exactly six weeks away, Eriksson's dilemma is now obvious.

When Rooney fractured the fifth metatarsal on the same foot in the Euro 2004 quarter-final defeat to Portugal, it was 10 weeks before he played again.

Such a lengthy absence would render it pointless taking the 20-year-old to Germany this summer given the obvious loss of fitness.

However, Rooney is such a key figure in an England side widely tipped to challenge for the trophy, Eriksson may deem it a risk worth taking him even though the former Everton star will definitely miss the final two matches of Manchester United's domestic programme and England's pre-tournament friendlies against Hungary and Jamaica.

Eriksson has previously indicated he would be prepared to take such a risk if one of his more important players was injured in the build-up to the tournament.

To this England side, they do not come more important than Rooney, although any decision to take the youngster to Germany would have to be made in consultation with United's medical staff - and Ferguson - to whom the former Everton man is equally important.

Even to consider letting Rooney join up with England, the United boss would require cast-iron guarantees the player's long-term fitness would not be put at risk.

Eriksson has already pledged to name a 26-man squad on May 8 before cutting three names from the list on the final FIFA deadline-day a week later.

Without receiving further clarification from United, it would be a major surprise if Rooney was not in the original party, before Eriksson then decides the precise make-up of his squad.