Wayne Rooney is facing three weeks out of Manchester United’s title charge after scoring the winner and then being struck down by a hamstring injury as the champions sealed a narrow 1-0 win against Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Rooney, 22, lasted just seven minutes of United’s win, which takes them to within two points of leaders Liverpool with a game in hand, before limping out of the action.
United can claim top spot in the Premier League for the first time this season if they defeat Bolton at the Reebok tomorrow, but Rooney will be forced to watch from the sidelines after suffering his injury blow.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said that he hoped Rooney would not be out for longer.
“Wayne has done his hamstring,” Ferguson said.
“It’s one of those things, but it’s a three-week job I’m afraid. Hopefully it won’t be any longer than that, but he gave us a great start with a great finish from Ronaldo’s cross,” he said.
“We were carrying injuries throughout the game and that says a lot for the character of the team. Carlos Tevez limped throughout the second-half, Jonny Evans, Paul Scholes, Ronaldo. They all seemed to be limping about the place,” Ferguson said.
“In terms of who will be fit for Saturday, we will just have to assess the injuries and do our best against a Bolton team that are very strong themselves. But Darren Fletcher, Anderson, Park Ji-sung will be fresh, so they will all play,” he said.
Ferguson had warned his players ahead of the game that Wigan would prove a stern test at Old Trafford.
And the manager’s words were proved accurate as the visitors threatened to de-rail United’s charge to the title.
Ferguson said: “Wigan are the best team we have played here this season by far. It was an outstanding performance by them and they really made us work.”
“We should have had the game put to bed by half-time with the penetration we had and the chances we created, but Wigan are a very good side, so it’s a big result for us,” he said.
“It was a gritty performance and in the second-half we didn’t play well. That was down to Wigan and the injuries taking their toll on our performance,” the Scot said.
“There are always games that you win 1-0 and look back and think that you battled well and showed some spirit. We’ve got the three points and there have been many occasions like that over the years,” he said.
Victory at Bolton will ensure top spot before Liverpool return to action at home to Everton and Ferguson admits that being top is a prize worth chasing at this stage of this season.
He said: “You don’t mind when you are top, but in my experience, being top is where you want to be, there is no question about that. So hopefully we can be top by Saturday night.”
Wigan manager Steve Bruce admitted that he faces a battle to hold onto Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios after revealing that Spurs have had a £10 million bid rejected for the player, who followed him to Wigan from Birmingham.
“For a club of our size, we are talking telephone numbers and I don’t even know what Spurs are prepared to go to,” said the former United centerback.
“I haven’t spoken to the boy yet, but I have been there myself and how can you deny somebody a life-changing opportunity? We will see what the money men come up with in the next 24-48 hours,” he said.
“Whatever happens, though, it will take top dollar to get him. He showed against United what he can do, but in two years time, he can be the best around.”