Manchester United are sending Wayne Rooney for a week's conditioning work in the United States in a bid to ensure he is fully fit for a first-team comeback.
Rooney is presently sidelined by an ankle injury and manager Sir Alex Ferguson does not expect his star striker to be back in action for another three weeks. However, rather than use the state-of-the-art facilities at their Carrington training base, United have opted to use Nike's centre in Oregon, as much in a bid to get Rooney away from the constant headlines, which have dogged him since first news of his unhappiness at Old Trafford was raised nearly three weeks ago.
"What we are intending to do with Wayne is send him to the USA for a week's conditioning training," confirmed United assistant-manager Mike Phelan. "We have decided, with Wayne, the medical team and the coaching staff that it would be the best thing for him. He is going on Saturday and will return the following Saturday. It is a week's intensive conditioning, under the supervision of our medical team and our sports' science department."
Phelan did raise the possibility that Rooney could be back for the home encounter with Wigan Athletic on 21 November , although there is little doubt United believe the chance of working away from the glare of publicity will aid Rooney's recovery programme. "We have the facilities," he conceded. "We just thought it might be in the interests of him and the club to have a change of scenery for a little while.
He needs the conditioning. We all agree with that. He can go there without the attention he would get around here.
Mike Phelan on Wayne Rooney
"He has had a lot of attention lately and we want to give him the best opportunity that he possibly can to be in good shape when he returns. He needs the conditioning. We all agree with that. He can go there without the attention he would get around here. If that goes according to plan, he will be available when he returns."
Aside from Rooney, for once the weekly medical bulletin was led by information on the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. United officials confirmed the Scot would be absent from his weekly press briefing earlier this morning.
It was left to Phelan to confirm Ferguson had been struck down by the same virus which prevented four members of his squad travelling to Turkey for the Champions League win over Bursaspor and keeps Darron Gibson out of tomorrow's Premier League encounter with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
"The manager has been ill since coming back from Turkey," said Phelan. "He came down with a virus yesterday. He felt a little bit like that on the flight coming back. Yesterday he felt worse, so we have kept him away from the club for a little while. It is related to the virus that has been going around. It is one of those things that gets hold of you and is hard to shake off but he will be at the game tomorrow."
Phelan confirmed that Ryan Giggs is edging towards full fitness after his recent hamstring problems, although it seems more likely the veteran Welshman will make his comeback against City at Eastlands than being rushed back for this weekend's fixture, particularly as Darren Fletcher is set to shake off an ankle problem.
"Darren Fletcher is showing positive signs that he could recover," said Phelan. "We will have a look at him again this morning and hopefully he will be available. Ryan has been back in training and has started his preparation for the matches. Whether he will be available for tomorrow we are not quite sure yet."
There are other virus sufferers who will need to be assessed, although in-form winger Nani will not be considered. The Portugal international limped out of Tuesday's win with a groin injury amid fears he could be sidelined for some considerable time. However, he reported an easing of the discomfort yesterday and now he is undergoing treatment it is hoped will have him ready to face City.
"There is a possibility he could play against Manchester City," said Phelan. "Having reported in yesterday with the injury from Tuesday night, he felt a lot better than we expected, so we are going to progress him as quickly as we can with a view to next week."