Wayne Rooney suffered his latest setback on Wednesday after being omitted from the Manchester United squad that travelled to Belgium ahead of the club’s biggest game of the season, as the England captain moves closer to the exit door at Old Trafford.
Rooney has missed United’s past two matches with what United manager Jose Mourinho cited as pain in both ankles.
But he returned to training this week, and took part in Wednesday morning’s session with team-mates. After being assessed, though, it was decided he was not fit enough to travel and was left out of the squad that flew to Brussels in the afternoon for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht on Thursday.
Brussels is already on a heightened state of alert following last year’s terrorist attacks in the city and Tuesday’s incident in Germany, when Borussia Dortmund’s team bus was damaged by explosives 90 minutes before their Champions League match against Monaco was due to kick-off, will only raise vigilance.
The striker has often been overlooked by Mourinho because of niggling injuries and illness that would seldom have prevented the 31-year-old from playing in the past and his latest omission is another blunt indication of how far out of the picture at United Rooney has fallen.
�� Watch the lads at work during this morning's training session... pic.twitter.com/G2SA9Uyyn7
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 12, 2017
Rooney last started a game four and a half weeks ago and has made one start in the Premier League since Dec 17. He was omitted from the Europa League squads for the Round of 32 and Round of 16 ties home and away to Saint-Etienne and FC Rostov.
China or the United States remain Rooney’s most likely destination this summer although his dramatic fall from grace at Old Trafford could damage his bargaining power with potential suitors.
David De Gea, who has been nursing a minor injury that kept him out of Sunday’s trip to Sunderland, has been included in the squad, although Mourinho is thought to harbour some concerns that the Spain goalkeeper has been distracted by renewed interest from Real Madrid.
A proposed move to the Bernabeu, that would have seen Keylor Navas join United as part of a £29 million deal, collapsed on transfer deadline in September 2015, with both clubs blaming each other for the farcical episode.
De Gea ended up signing a new four-year contract with United to tie him to the club until June 2019, complete with an option to extend for another 12 months, but Real are interested in signing the £50 million rated Spaniard again this summer.
Mourinho was dismayed that De Gea almost conceded a speculative shot from Darren Fletcher in the recent goalless draw at home to West Bromwich, when the goalkeeper ended up pushing the ball unconvincing on to the crossbar after getting his bearings wrong. Mourinho described it, without any hint of laughter, as a “funny thing” and a consequence of De Gea being mostly redundant in the game. De Gea then let a shot from Phil Jagielka through his legs in the 1-1 draw against Everton. Sergio Romero, who has impressed in goal when he has played this season, was in net for the 3-0 win at Sunderland.
Anderlecht officials said that strict security measures would be in place for the game. Anderlecht spokesman David Steegen said: “We are prepared. The security level in Brussels has been higher since March 22 last year, when co-oridinated attacks in the city killed 32 and injured hundreds of others.
“It means the city and all public events within it are subject to enforced security meassures, including army presence, extra security sweeps and controls.
United fans without tickets have been warned by Belgian police that they will be “administratively arrested”, by decree of the Mayor, if they try to access the 22,000 capacity Constant Vanden Stock stadium. They have also been told that no bags, including handbags, will be permitted inside the stadium owing to “concerns over terrorists incidents” and that the policy will be “very strictly enforced”. There are no storage areas at the ground.
Fans without tickets are advised by Belgian authorities not to travel to the stadium tomorrow. They will not get in and could risk arrest. pic.twitter.com/yPHo7SWOgs
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 12, 2017
Asked about the Dortmund incident, Anderlecht forward Massimo Bruno said: “We have to live with that. We are footballers and we must go on playing. We have to think of something and stick together. Everything will be safe tomorrow.”