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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 8, 2006

Sir Alex backs Eriksson's plan to select Rooney

Sir Alex Ferguson believes England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has little option but to include Wayne Rooney in his World Cup squad today - although he maintains it is a 'forlorn hope' that the forward will be fit for the finals in Germany.

Eriksson, scheduled to name a 23-man squad this afternoon which he has long said will 'probably' contain Rooney despite his broken foot, can be assured the player's club manager subscribes to that policy.

The United manager last night told Sky Sports News: 'I think it's fair enough. I would do the same if I were Sven because if he [Rooney] were to get fit - and it's a big if - you would have to have him there.'

Rooney suffered several fractures to the fourth metatarsal on his right foot in a challenge with Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira at Stamford Bridge, and Ferguson offered an update on his battle to regain fitness.

'He has been having treatment twice a day. He is showing a great determination to try to get ready for the World Cup. We know it is a forlorn hope - but we will give it a try.

'We will see how he gets on over the next few weeks. That's the important time for him.'

Injured players can be replaced up to 24 hours before England's first game of the finals on June 10 if a FIFA doctor verifies the injury.

Rooney is considered to be a special case by the England boss and will be given as long as possible to prove his fitness.

But Rooney looks certain to miss the group games at least - which means England need a Plan B - and that suddenly changes the balance of Eriksson's squad.

The instant beneficiaries from Rooney's injury appear to be Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent, who were duelling for one spot but should now both be on the plane.

Beyond that, gate-crashers like Stewart Downing and Aaron Lennon could come into the picture when Eriksson names his squad, plus probably four stand-by players. It has even been reported that Eriksson could spring a surprise by taking a look at Arsenal's 17-year-old striker Theo Walcott.

One tempting option open to Eriksson is to simply move Joe Cole into Rooney's position off the main striker.

Cole's recent form for his country has been so impressive that the Swede will be reluctant to remove him from the left of midfield, England's problem position for so long.

But he may have little choice, and that opens up a slot for a left-sided midfielder.

Downing has timed his run perfectly, returning from injury to help Middlesbrough to the UEFA Cup final with some fine displays.

Eriksson watched Lennon's electric performance against Bolton seven days ago, and that may convince him to take a closer look at the speedy Spurs teenager.

If the England boss tinkers with the formation in Rooney's absence Lennon could come into the equation.

Jermaine Jenas, out with a shin injury, may be one crock too many for Eriksson.

He looked a World Cup certainty all season, but England will lose a midfielder to carry Rooney.

Ashley Cole looks set to be ready after missing most of the season with a broken foot and a thigh injury.

Eriksson is expected to keep faith in Sol Campbell and take a chance on Ledley King, knowing that if either of them suffers a setback he can turn to Wes Brown.

Michael Owen insists he is fit and will play in the England B international against Belarus at Reading on May 25. But the the Newcastle striker was not in the Magpies' 16 for their final Premiership game against champions Chelsea yesterday.

One other issue is in goal.

Robert Green expects to be fit after an ankle injury but has not played since mid-April. His lack of match fitness may persuade the England boss to turn to Scott Carson, at least in a stand-by role.

Probable squad: Robinson, James, Green; G Neville, King, Campbell, R Ferdinand, Terry, Carragher, A Cole, Bridge; Beckham, Wright-Phillips, Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick, J Cole, Downing; Rooney, Owen, Crouch, Defoe, Bent.

Stand-by: Carson, Brown, Hargreaves, Lennon.