MANCHESTER // Wayne Rooney will head into tomorrow night’s Champions League quarter-final showdown with Chelsea knowing he will almost certainly miss the next significant assignment on Manchester United’s treble quest.
Despite issuing an apology on Saturday evening, in which the England striker attempted to explain the reasons for his foul-mouthed celebration into a TV camera after completing his hat-trick in United’s 4-2 comeback win over West Ham, Rooney has still been hit with a Football Association charge.
Manchester City stand to benefit from the decision of the disciplinary panel to charge Rooney with the use of “offensive, insulting and/or abusive language”.
As the actual crime is indisputable, Rooney’s only course of action other than to accept a two-match ban would be to challenge the length of the suspension.
However, the risk of having it increased, which would rule him out of a trip to Newcastle which follows Saturday’s Old Trafford encounter with Fulham and the Manchester derby FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on April 16, may see Rooney merely accept what is coming to him.
It should at least bring a sense of focus to his play tomorrow, even if it will do little for his overall mood, or that of United as a club - although Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have always played better when forced into a ‘them against us’ mentality.
Ferguson himself will be able to take his seat in the dugout against Chelsea, the European tie providing respite from a five-match domestic ban.
The argument may be made that Rooney should have been sent off at Wigan recently, whilst skipper Nemanja Vidic could easily have seen red at West Ham on Saturday, which would have probably killed any comeback aspirations stone dead.
As it is, Vidic, and Rooney for that matter, can look ahead to a trip to west London knowing United are still on track to emulate the heroes of 1999.
“Our performances at Chelsea in the last two or three years have been really good,” said the Serbian, as he assessed the challenge of United claiming their first win at Stamford Bridge since 2002.
“We have played some good football but in the end, we didn’t get good results.
“Chelsea are an experienced team. They know how to play, especially at home.
“Now I am thinking we should play badly and win. Maybe that is the name of the game now.”