Rooney injury could shatter United's title bid says Ancelotti | sports | Hindustan Times
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Rooney injury could shatter United's title bid says Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti has warned Manchester United that an injury to Wayne Rooney could shatter their Premier League title challenge because they don't have the same squad strength as Chelsea.

sports Updated: Jan 27, 2010 11:29 IST

Carlo Ancelotti has warned Manchester United that an injury to Wayne Rooney could shatter their Premier League title challenge because they don't have the same squad strength as Chelsea.

Cristiano Ronaldo's pre-season move to Real Madrid has allowed United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to restore Rooney to his favoured central attacking role and the England forward has responded with a superb run of form.

He has already scored 20 goals in all competitions and emphasised his importance to United with the first four-goal haul of his career, against Hull on Saturday, to send the champions to the top of the table.

But Chelsea boss Ancelotti is convinced Rooney's effervescent displays only serve to underline how much Ferguson's team depend on the 24-year-old.

"Without Rooney it would be difficult (to win the league). He's the best striker at Manchester United, one of the best strikers in the world," Ancelotti said.

"Rooney, for me, is a fantastic player. He's not only a striker because he's not only a finisher, he's a champion, a world-class player.

"He plays for the team. I saw him play left wing last year and coming back to help out the team defensively. He's a football player. I'm a big fan of Rooney's.

"He's a very decisive player for United. We have a possibility without Didier because we can put Anelka on, another top striker in the world."

Ancelotti feels United would struggle if Rooney was sidelined for a long period because, in contrast to his own squad, Ferguson has only the aging Michael Owen to turn to.

Although Chelsea have been without star striker Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, one of his main understudies, over the last month due to the African Nations Cup, Ancelotti has been able to rely on Nicolas Anelka - who has five goals in four games - and highly-rated youngster Daniel Sturridge.

Even without Drogba, who is expected back for Saturday's game at Burnley, Chelsea had scored 14 goals in three matches prior to Wednesday's clash against Birmingham.

Ancelotti believes that is a tribute to the quality of Anelka and his squad's impressive depth.

"Without Didier we have the possibility to put other strong, fantastic players in. Without Didier in the Champions League at the start of the season, Nicolas did very well," he said.

"Now we have Nicolas and Sturridge doing very well in this month. So we had the possibility to play without Didier.

"We changed something on the pitch but if we have less strength in forward areas we can use other players.

"Our aim was to keep all the players in good condition because, if we stay without four players and we then have some injuries, it could have been a difficult period.

"We have those injuries but we can put Deco in because he's in good condition. In training and work, the players have worked very hard in this period and we could do well without those (African) players."

With the title race looking set to be a three-horse sprint between Chelsea, United and Arsenal, Ancelotti believes the team that keeps most of its' star players fit during the run-in will lift the trophy.

"I think that, in this moment, to avoid injury is very important," he said. "We have to control training and the players' rest and we can do that because we have good facilities.

"We have to control the load of the matches and training. To have injuries now is very difficult. The risk is to arrive at the end of the season with a tired squad."