Is Alex Ferguson a thorn in the Lions paw?
That what many England fans are wondering after Wednesday's Champions League game between Manchester United and Bayern Munich. As Wayne Rooney lay on the pitch grasping his ankle for the second consecutive week, many supporters of the Three Lions can only wonder if Sir Alex is wearing down England's main man, just before they go to South Africa.
After Ces Fabregas of Arsenal quite possibly ended his World Cup hopes by breaking a bone in his right leg against Barcelona last week, mostly due to coming back too soon from a deep bruise in the very spot he broke his leg, you would have thought Ferguson would have played it safe. But it was not so. It is quite possible that another decision to bring back Rooney hastily, in an attempt to recapture the Premiership title, could lead to England losing their best player this summer.
It would not be the first time England's biggest star was hurt in a game coached by Ferguson. In fact if the unthinkable were to happen to Rooney, it would mark the third successive World Cup in which one of England's biggest talents was hurt in Fergie's lineup right before the tournament.
The first two, Ferguson could hardly be blamed. David Beckham's broken foot just before the 2002 World Cup, was due to a vicious tackle by Deportivo La Coruna's Alfred Duscher. Wayne Rooney's broken metatarsal just prior to Germany 2006 could not have been seen coming either.
This time, it is different, however. With Rooney's knee injury over the last month, and this recurring ankle injury, all the signs point to Rooney desperately needing time on the sideline. With Manchester United 2 points behind Chelsea in the standings, Ferguson may chance Rooney's injuries in an attempt to reclaim first place. In doing so, he may very well crush England's dreams of a World Cup victory with it.
It is apparent by Rooney's inclusion in Wednesday's game, that Ferguson is not at all concerned whether or not Rooney plays in South Africa. Rooney reluctance to sit out when he probably should, as was also the case when he played 86 minutes in England's friendly against Egypt, despite being hampered with a knee problem, may be his undoing. But ultimately, it's the manager who decides if he plays, or sits. England fans can only hope Sir Alex is more cautious with their top player than he has been in recent weeks, or Rooney may be watching the World Cup alongside fellow teammate David Beckham, and England fans may be watching their best chance of a World Cup since 1966 fall by the wayside.