|Wayne Rooney (C) is helped from the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League match, FC Bayern Munich vs Manchester United, in the southern German city of Munich on March 30, 2010. AFP photo|
LONDON, April 2, 2010 (AFP) - Gary Neville insists Manchester United can't use Wayne Rooney's absence with an ankle injury as an excuse if they lose to title rivals Chelsea on Saturday.
United defender Neville is well aware how important Rooney is to Sir Alex Ferguson's side, but he is convinced the Premier League champions should be able to cope without the England forward.
Rooney, who has scored 34 times this season, will be out for two to three weeks after suffering ankle ligament damage against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
But right-back Neville said: "We don't want injuries, particularly to our best players. Wayne will be a miss for us because he has been in such great form.
"But in the past people have always stood up to the plate and contributed.
"We have had key players out for big matches before and still won them. We have gone into finals without two or three major players and come through it.
"Chelsea have players missing. They don't have Michael Essien or Ashley Cole.
"All teams get injuries and suspensions on the run-in. You have to cope with them."
Neville knows United can take a significant step towards winning their fourth successive Premier League title if they defeat Chelsea.
A victory would move United four points clear of Carlo Ancelotti's side, but the Blues are in fine form after scoring 12 goals in their last two matches against Portsmouth and Aston Villa.
"I don't think there is any doubt that it is a massive match," Neville said. "We are aware they have hit a little bit of form.
"Aston Villa had the best defence in the league until last weekend and they have had a week to prepare, although I am not sure that will have too much of an effect.
"There is a big reward for the team that wins. Whilst I don't think the title will be decided by this one result, the team that wins will have confidence and momentum going into the last five games."