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Zenit sign Bart Simpson

The Toe Poke 8 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 24, 2006

Rooney's doctor sacked by Manchester United

Manchester United doctor Mike Stone has left Old Trafford following a major bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Just 24 hours before Wayne Rooney is due to have the scan which will either make or break his hopes of appearing in this summer's World Cup, it has emerged that Stone, the man under whom the brilliant forward was being treated, has had his employment with United terminated with immediate effect.

Red Devils officials are insistent Stone's departure has nothing to do with Rooney's recovery from the broken metatarsal he suffered at Chelsea last month.

However, with details over the reasons behind the dispute with Ferguson still sketchy, speculation the problem stems from something to do with Rooney is bound to be rife.

Given the cautious tone he adopted over the 20-year-old's chances of playing in Germany this summer, Ferguson has presumably grown increasingly unhappy at the number of positive bulletins being released on Rooney's condition.

Although most of the statements have been attributed to the England doctor Leif Sward, Stone has been liaising closely with the Swede.

The growing clamour for Rooney to be included in Sven-Goran Eriksson's final 23-man World Cup squad flies in the face of Ferguson's own belief that the £27million former Everton star should not travel unless he is 100% fit.

According to the Scot, anything else would place Eriksson under increasing pressure to play Rooney and risk longer-term damage to his star man.

Given the importance to United of Rooney being fit for the start of next season, it would be understandable if Ferguson found the present upbeat mood irritating, possibly triggering an argument over an unrelated matter which led to confirmation of Stone's departure in a club statement.

'We can confirm Dr Stone has left the club,' read the statement. 'There was a difference of opinion on a non-footballing and non-clinical issue, as a result of which Dr Stone felt it to be in his and the club's best interests for him to leave.

'The difference was over a non-clinical issue and had nothing whatsoever to do with any medical treatment to a Manchester United player.'

Stone's departure means Rooney's care will now be handled by his assistant Tony Gill, who is now expected to be officially installed as United's club doctor.

The dismissal has been greeted with shock and some sense of sadness within Red Devils circles, where Stone has been a popular figure among both players and staff since his arrival in 1999.

Senior figures at the club - including Ferguson - stood by Stone over the Rio Ferdinand missed drugs test fiasco in 2003, when he elected to try to get a message to the defender that he was required for to take a test rather than ensure he attended it personally.

The loyalty shown at that time only makes his exit even more of a shock.