Just when Wayne Rooney finally discovered the type of goal-scoring burst that many Manchester United fans have long panged for this season, the club’s captain has been ruled out for two months with a knee injury.
With seven goals in his last nine appearances for the Red Devils, the forward’s absence will certainly be felt at Old Trafford, where the scramble for a top-four spot is becoming increasingly desperate.
Not only will Rooney now miss key games for his club, including tussles with Arsenal and local rivals Manchester City, but the 30-year-old is also ruled out of England’s friendly double-header against Germany and Holland next month.
Ironically, Roy Hodgson’s young Three Lions squad are more likely to be emancipated without their skipper than shackled.
Against two opponents of quality, Hodgson now has a chance to unleash the country’s most in-form forward line without worrying how to shoehorn the side’s record scorer in as well.
Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane have scored 35 Premier League goals between them this season. That total is one strike less than Rooney has managed in his last 89 top-flight outings. Vardy and Kane have scored their goals in a combined 52 games.
The United man’s looming presence as armband-wearer and Bobby-Charlton successor guarantees his selection regardless of form. Without him around, Hodgson can unleash an enterprising side that mixes Vardy’s direct running on the counter attack with Kane’s all-round skill set.
Certainly against the Germans in the first outing, Hodgson can mirror a knockout-stage Euros gameplan against a more fancied outfit. That style would borrow the tactics used by Vardy’s Leicester to great effect in the top flight.
At 11/1 to win the summer tournament, Hodgson’s squad are certainly not among the hottest fancies for glory. But should the Kane-Vardy axis prove fruitful without Rooney next month, the manager may find a formula that could help the side outperform their odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.