Manchester United manager David Moyes to take huge punt on unfit Wayne Rooney
United striker in against Bayern
Manchester United manager David Moyes insisted that he would not jeopardise Wayne Rooney's England World Cup chances or do "anything wrong" by playing him with a chipped toe bone, as his side seek to overcome Bayern Munich and preserve an 18-year unbroken run of Champions League football.
Moyes said the 28-year-old was "happy" to take an injection in his toe and "if he is determined we would be mad not to [play him]" in a game that United must win tonight to progress to the semi-finals.
Though Moyes avoided detailing the precise injury by claiming that only United's doctors had knowledge of it, the prospect of Rooney playing through the pain evokes memories of Sir Alex Ferguson risking the striker's ankle ligament damage by playing him against Bayern in the 2010 quarter-final second leg at Old Trafford.
Rooney lasted only 55 minutes of that game, was subsequently out of action for another 10 days and played only three games for United before his poor World Cup, finishing just one of them.
After the Bayern defeat, manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "I don't think it's serious. He'll be available next week."
For his part, Moyes admitted that Rooney, who trained at Carrington yesterday, had been unable to do so all week and said United would need to be "wary" of that fact.
His willingness to play "shows you his feeling for the game and the club," Moyes said.
"We think it's ok. We take advice from our doctors. Everybody knows the character Wayne is and the kind of player he is."
Moyes, who instigated a trip to the Munich memorial en route from the team hotel after wrapping up an extremely brief press conference, arrived here taking encouragement from Bayern's poor recent record against English sides in recent seasons.
The manager said last night that the record would create "doubt" in German minds and was something "we will try to use to our advantage."
Bayern's 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in December was followed by the 1-1 draw in the round of 16 against Arsenal, who also beat them 2-0 in last season's round of 16 defeat.
The 2012 final defeat to Chelsea on penalties also came at the Allianz Arena, with those four games the only home Champions League fixtures in 18 that the Germans have failed to win.
The German record offers a very limited kind of succour, because the odds certainly weigh heavily against United.
Moyes understandably declared that this was the most supreme test he had faced in management – "of course it's the hardest game" – and his declaration that he wanted more possession against Guardiola's team cannot obscure the fact that his players will be fighting to stay in the tie.
The most instructive discussion of how United will attempt to cope with the Germans came from Rooney, in an interview for UEFA media, in which he acknowledged that "there are times when teams are better than you but you've got to adapt the way you play to try and beat then."
Rooney recalled the 2008 semi-final at Camp Nou, when United fought out a goalless draw.
"When we played Barcelona away, in 2008, I remember playing right wing, with Owen Hargreaves at right back and we had [Eric] Abidal and [Andres] Iniesta against us.
"I remember thinking 'I've got to do this.' It was a long night, but we defended very well, we got the 0-0 and then won 1-0 in the return.
"Just having that discipline about your game can be the difference of whether you win the trophy or not."
For Moyes, who has left Marouane Fellaini and Rafael back in Manchester, the difference tonight is that no Old Trafford second leg awaits.
United must exploit space behind the high Bayern line, though Moyes will also need his players to hold possession better than they did in Manchester – when the familiar Barcelona ability to reclaim possession as soon as losing it as in evidence.
"I would like to have more possession of the ball and have a bigger effect on the game when we've got it," he said.
"My plans would be to do that, though those were my plans in the first leg as well."
Rooney observed that Philipp Lahm, the adhesive in Bayern's midfield, was a more dangerous threat that the offensive forces of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.
"Lahm is the one who makes everything tick. He is the one you have to stop," the striker said.
United's need to score and win did not affect the tactical approach. Moyes added: "It doesn't alter a lot because if Bayern score we have to score as well.
"We have to go out and win the game but we have to be better on the ball in the game than we were in the first. But we need the determination to get the result."
Defeat would effectively condemn United to their first season outside of the Champions League since 1995/6 and Moyes did not deny that prolonging an involvement in the competition was a motivating factor.
"It's a competition that we have been one of the most successful clubs in Europe in it and it's a competition we want to try to continue in," he said. "We will try and achieve it any way we can."