Paul Parker

Rooney injury should be a wake-up call

Like many people who saw Manchester United's win over Fulham at the weekend, I winced when I saw the nasty injury Wayne Rooney sustained on his thigh.

You have to feel for any player who is injured, especially when it is right at the start of the season, but this could be the opportunity Rooney needs to really sort himself out.

The forward's contribution for England at Euro 2012 was disappointing in the two games he played once his suspension ended, and he has looked out of sorts at the start of this season too. He looked sluggish and out of shape against Everton, and it was no surprise that he was only named on the bench against Fulham for United's second game.

Even though he scored 27 goals in the league last season as United pushed the title race to the final day, I don't think his all-round contribution towards the end of the campaign was anything like what we have come to expect from him.

Last term, he was undeniably top dog at the club. With Javier Hernandez suffering a big dip in form and Dimitar Berbatov seemingly out of favour, Rooney knew that his position was not under threat, especially with the number of goals he was getting.

Now, however, with Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa arriving in the summer that is no longer the case. With Rooney now out of the picture for a while, Alex Ferguson can focus on developing the partnership between his two new attacking star signings.

We have already seen signs that both players are adapting quickly to life at their new club and Rooney's enforced absence, while unfortunate for him and for the club, gives them the chance to really bed themselves in now.

Rooney will have to look on and see that happening from the sidelines, watching matches at home and training away from the rest of the squad once he is able to get back out there. That should act as motivation for him to realise that he can never get comfortable in his position at Old Trafford. Some immensely talented players have been shown the door because they became complacent with success or their attitude began to suffer.

Rooney still has a major part to play at United. Ferguson probably envisages finding a way to accommodate him, Van Persie and Kagawa all in the same starting line-up on a regular basis if he can. But he must use this period of rehabilitation to make sure he returns to action in the best possible shape.

When he was my manager at Fulham, the late Ray Harford used to refer to anyone who was out of action as 'DW', meaning dead wood. What he meant by that was it didn't matter how good you were as a player - if you were injured, suspended or couldn't play for any other reason, then you were of no use to him at that moment. It was a rather unsympathetic outlook, but you could see his point.