The news that Michael Owen is out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury will be a massive blow to both, Owen himself, and to Manchester United’s Championship run-in.
It lays to bed the argument about whether or not Owen should be in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad, but to think that is the only effect it will have on England’s World Cup chances would be wrong.
Looking at Manchester United’s squad, you now have to ask how much football will Wayne Rooney be forced to play between now and the end of the season?
The fact is that while United remain in the Champions League he could be playing twice a week (most weeks) between now and the end of the season.
When fit it is hard too see Rooney getting too much rest or rotation now, although to be fair, even before the injury to Owen, Rooney didn’t get much rest anyway such was his excellent form.
I can’t see Ferguson having too much faith in playing Dimitar Berbatov up front on his own, when forced too (like at Wolves on Saturday) he will, but it is surely more of a last resort than a decision of choice.
Maybe now Berbatov will rise to the challenge and demand inclusion in the side, the fact that he is the only other fit first choice striker might spur him on more.
But you have to imagine that such is the stage of the season and the importance of Manchester United’s remaining fixtures in both the title and the Champions League, that when Rooney is fit, more often than not he is going to be playing.
As England fans we can only hope he remains injury free and finishes the season in the same run of form as he is currently in, the fact that he is young and in great shape should hopefully ensure that he turns up in South Africa feeling fresh and raring to go, not jaded or carrying a knock after a long season for Manchester United.