United insist that Rooney’somission was due to injury

MANCHESTER United have stood by their assertion that Wayne Rooney missed Saturday’s calamitous home defeat by Blackburn Rovers because of injury, despite a report yesterday claiming that the player had been omitted from the team following a Boxing Day night out with his wife, and two team-mates and their partners.

Rooney was sitting in the stand as United crashed 3-2 to troubled Blackburn, a result which Old Trafford manager Sir Alex Ferguson described as “disastrous”.

It is understood that Rooney was carpeted by Ferguson following a night out last week with injured pair Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson.

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But United have insisted that the England striker was injured. Ferguson said at the weekend: “Wayne hasn’t trained well this week. He’s missed a few days and we’re hoping that, by Wednesday, he should be okay.”

In the shock result of the day on Saturday – Ferguson’s 70th birthday – United fell two goals behind thanks to a double by Blackburn striker Ayegbeni Yakubu, but hit back with a brace from Dimitar Berbatov to draw level. Blackburn snatched all three points when young Scotland defender Grant Hanley scored with a header on 80 minutes.

Having failed to secure their expected victory against the Premier League’s bottom club, United must respond at Newcastle on Wednesday.

Ferguson must be tempted to make immediate changes against a team which includes the prolific Demba Ba, at the start of a week that ends with an FA Cup tie against Manchester City. Goalkeeper David de Gea’s position is under threat after an unconvincing performance.

“That third goal was a killer,” admitted the United manager. “But we need to recover now. We are coming to a crucial part of the season and we want to make sure we come back from Newcastle with a proper result.”