Long way back for Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia
Ecuador's national team doctor was clinging to hopes yesterday that the ankle and leg injury Antonio Valencia sustained against Rangers on Tuesday night might not be as bad as initially feared and that the player may be back in the game within two months.
Hector Bohorquez suggested that despite the horrific impact on Valencia's left ankle of him catching his foot in the sodden Old Trafford turf, the injury proved to be a dislocation rather than a break.
“The first [job for the] the doctor is trying to put the bones back into place manually after anesthesia is given,” Bohorquez said.
But the odds appear to be weighed heavily against a return this season. Both Bohorquez and Patricio Maldonado, another of the national team doctors, have said that Valencia will be out for six months if Sir Alex Ferguson's initial prognosis — a break and dislocation — is confirmed.
“He will be out for an initial four to five months, and then he will need a lot of rehabilitation to recover his mobility,” Maldonado said. Valencia underwent surgery yesterday.
Coach Reinaldo Rueda's national set-up are already preparing to offer psychological help to the 23-year-old though Valencia — whose command performance in last month's Community Shield reflected his emergence from his shell as a player of influence — is not the only one for whom the events of Tuesday were a tragedy.
Wayne Rooney will take a heavy hit, too, though one of the few scraps of condolence for Ferguson is that it was not his talisman who suffered the calamity on the turf. Rooney seemed to turn his ankle in a position inches from Valencia's calamity, three minutes before half time, though he ran off his discomfort.
The striker's attempts to evade questions from the journalists late on Tuesday night were about as subtle as his nocturnal indiscretions.
Rooney tried the old routine of pretending to receive a mobile phone call — but since it takes 30 seconds to weave through Old Trafford's subterranean ‘Mixed Zone' and he didn't seem to have the energy to fake a conversation, he resorted simply to staring at the phone long before he reached the door.
Valencia is the player Rooney said last season that he most wanted to see alongside him on the teamsheet.
“I couldn't have scored the amount of goals I have this season without him,” he said in May.
“He's been great this year and the quality of balls he puts in the box for me has been unbelievable.”
That statement came after the Ecuadorean supply line had provided two goals for Rooney in San Siro against AC Milan and a further two later against West Ham, seven days later.
Valencia's seven goals made him United's top-scoring midfielder of last season, though the anxiety for Rooney and his manager is who might now provide the ammunition from either of the wings, where United are hardly blessed. Luis Nani will have the right wing to himself for the foreseeable future but he is not a player to place the ball on Rooney's head. Ryan Giggs, one who can, will be limited by appearances. Ji-Sung Park, the other man in possession on the left, is neither a wide player, nor one Ferguson has been picking terribly much. He has started only two competitive games since United's title-defining defeat to Chelsea in April.
With Liverpool at Old Trafford again on Sunday, Ryan Giggs acknowledged that United cannot afford to drop to many more points in the first 10 games, having let four slip in the last two away games.
“Over the last six or seven years probably [you've not been able to drop too many early points],” Giggs said. “We're wary of that. But we also know there's a long way to go. The crowd will light up [on Sunday], it's usually a ferocious game They'll be coming here to try to win it. I don't think they'll be coming here for a draw.”
As to how Rooney will operate as Valencia's absence compounds what is becoming a terrible year, Giggs can only hope.
“He has been in good form. He played two good games for England, he's looked sharp in training. His fitness is coming,” Giggs said. “Wayne's Wayne.”
Five horrific football injuries
David Busst: Coventry City v Manchester United (April 8 1996, Old Trafford): Busst was sandwiched between the challenges of both Denis Irwin and Brian McClair and suffered a double compound fracture that pierced the skin.
Several players, including goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel were reported to have sought counselling. Busstcontracted MRSA while undergoing 26 operations to save his leg.
Eduardo da Silva: Arsenal v Birmingham City (September 23 2008, St Andrews): The Brazilian striker suffered a broken fibula and open dislocation of the ankle after a tackle by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor.
Aaron Ramsey: Arsenal v Stoke City (February 27 2010, Britannia Stadium): A robust challenge from Potter's captain Ryan Shawcross resulted in a double fracture of the tibia and fibula.
Alan Smith: Manchester United v Liverpool (February 18 2006, Old Trafford): The midfielder paid a heavy price for flinging himself at John Arne Riise’s free-kick, sustaining a broken leg and dislocated ankle.
Djibril Cisse: Liverpool v Blackburn (October 30 2004, Ewood Park): Djibril Cisse was left writhing in agony with a broken tibia and fibula after a collision with Jay McEveley.