MANCHESTER United striker Wayne Rooney will miss Sunday’s Premier League clash against north-west rivals, Liverpool after failing to recover from a knee injury, manager Alex Ferguson said on yesterday.
Rooney injured a knee ligament in training and missed United’s holiday fixtures against Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic, as well as, their FA Cup draw at West Ham United.
“Wayne Rooney is still out,” Ferguson told reporters. “I am hoping he will start training today (yesterday) actually, in which case he won’t be far away. I don’t think it is an issue, but we need to guide him along.
“In terms of the injury he had, it’s quite straightforward so if he starts today, I assume he will be available for Wednesday’s replay against West Ham.”
United winger Nani and midfielder Anderson will both return to the squad for Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford.
“Nani is back in training and will be included in the squad for Sunday (tomorrow). Anderson has been back training for 10 days now so he will be in the squad. All in all it is quite a positive situation. It’s good to have them back.”
United lead the Premier League by seven points from local rivals Manchester City after 21 games, while Liverpool are 14 points further adrift in eighth place.
The fixture, however, remains as important as ever, according to Ferguson.
“The derby game against Liverpool never changes,” he said. It’s always an immensely important game – intense, emotional. We are going into the game in reasonable form.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he was “optimistic” that England international Theo Walcott will commit his long-term future to the London club and sign a new deal.
Barely a week goes by without the Frenchman being asked whether progress has been made on persuading top scorer Walcott to stay at the Emirates Stadium.
Walcott, who has hit eight Premier League goals this campaign, is out of contract at the end of the season,
“Discussions progress smoothly but slowly. We are on a good road but in this situation, as long as nothing is signed, you are cautious,” Wenger told a news conference on Friday.
“But I am optimistic we will get to a happy conclusion. I was optimistic last week, but I am a bit more optimistic this week.”
Walcott has made no secret of his desire to switch from the wing to play in the centre forward role and has revelled in that position in recent games, including netting a dazzling hat-trick in the 7-3 win over Newcastle United in late December.
Arsenal host second-placed Manchester City on Sunday (1600) with striker Olivier Giroud rated as “50-50” to play by Wenger after suffering a cut knee in the FA Cup tie with Swansea last weekend.
Sixth-placed Arsenal are unbeaten in five league games but Wenger said his side needed “another positive result in a big game” to maintain pursuit of the clubs above them.
“We know this a vital period for us,” he said. “We are on a positive run. We still lack a bit of confidence in some situations and I feel our team will be very dangerous if we have full confidence.
“We are not far from it but we need another positive result in a big game to be completely confident and believe in our ability to come back.”