Rooney blow casts shadow over United title bid

MANCHESTER, England, April 25, 2010 (AFP) - Manchester United's celebrations after returning to the top of the Premier League table were cut short when it was revealed they may have to win the English title without Wayne Rooney.

The England striker missed United's 3-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, a result which sent Sir Alex Ferguson's reigning champions two points clear of title rivals Chelsea with two weekends of the season remaining.

Ferguson, speaking after United had defeated in-form Spurs at Old Trafford, said Rooney might be out for the next "two or three weeks" following a groin strain suffered in training on Thursday.

That would rule Rooney, United's leading scorer this term with 26 league goals, out of United's remaining games against Sunderland on May 2 and Stoke on May 9.

"It's difficult to say (how long he will be out for)," said Ferguson, after watching his side keep alive their hopes of clinching a 12th Premier League title in 18 seasons and fourth in a row.

"A groin injury is a groin injury. But it might take two or three weeks.

"Wayne will be desperate to play."

The loss of Rooney at such an important stage of the season is a major concern, but United showed against Tottenham they can cope without their main source of goals.

Ryan Giggs scored two penalties, awarded after Benoit Assou-Ekotto had fouled Patrice Evra and Wilson Palacios brought down Nani, who netted a wonder goal in between the two spot-kicks.

"We played very well today. We deserved it against the form team in the league," added Ferguson.

"Wayne did his groin on Thursday. We were doing simple possession and he tweaked his groin. We got him out on Friday and tried, but it wasn't good enough. We have to look at maybe two or three weeks possibly.

"I thought we were creating chances in the first half and Dimitar (Berbatov) was unlucky to have a shot blocked near the goal-line and a couple of shots over the bar.

"We needed to up our game a little bit and I think we did that in the second half.

"I left it to Giggs and Nani to decide between them who took the penalties with Wayne out and I think Ryan's experience showed.

"He showed composure to take two really good penalties right in either corner, both sides for the first and second. I think that was his experience telling there."

Spurs levelled at 1-1 in the 70th minute through defender Ledley King's header from a corner.

"I thought it was a clear foul from King for their goal but nobody protested in the mayhem of the goal," Ferguson added.

"But we came back. Nani has had the audacity and courage to chip the goalkeeper from that angle. It says a lot for him, not many players would have tried that at that stage. It was fantastic. Credit to him for doing that.

"I hope Chelsea (who will regain the lead if they beat Stoke on Sunday) feel pressure. There are two games left, we are top of the league at the moment.

"Who knows what is going to happen at Chelsea but we've done our job."

Despite defeat, Tottenham remain in contention to finish fourth and secure a place in next season's Champions League.

But Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was bitterly disappointed his side failed to carve out a point against a United side that is also missing injured England defender Rio Ferdinand.

"With no Rooney or Ferdinand, I felt it was a real opportunity for us," said Redknapp. "It would have been a massive point for us if we had hung on."

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