A nation holds its breath

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LONDON, April 1- England and Manchester United's torturous wait for news of a scan on key striker Wayne Rooney's ankle injury stretched into Thursday, just 10 weeks before the World Cup in South Africa kicks off.

In a sight that England fans were dreading, Rooney limped off in the closing minutes of United’s 2-1 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday and left the Allianz Arena with his right ankle encased in a plastic boot.

Rooney had on MRI scan on the ankle Wednesday and fans are praying that it does not reveal serious damage and leave the 24-year-old facing the same desperate race for fitness he endured before the 2006 World Cup.

United manager Alex Ferguson sought to downplay the injury, saying: "I don’t think it’s terribly serious, but we’ll wait and see."

Despite no official word on the scan by early Thursday, reports speculated the results would not force Rooney to miss the World Cup.

The Sun and Daily Mirror newspapers said England’s most important striker would be out for up to a month, meaning he would be fit in time for the tournament.

"Wayne’s pain’s a sprain so he’s still on plane," read The Sun’s headline.

Rooney underlined his goalscoring form in the second minute of the match in Munich when he volleyed home from close range to give United the lead.

But Rooney was left slumped on the grass after a collision with Bayern forward Mario Gomez moments before Ivica Olic scored Bayern’s winning goal in injury-time.

As Rooney tackled Gomez from behind, the German stood on Rooney’s left foot, causing the United striker to jump in pain. He then appeared to land awkwardly on his right foot, twisting his ankle in the process.

Rooney’s 34th goal of the season also underlined how much United would miss him as they approach a crucial few days.

The reigning champions face a crunch top-of-the-table clash with Chelsea on Saturday before taking on Bayern in the return leg of the Champions League quarter-final at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Rooney’s fight to recover from a broken metatarsal bone in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup became a national media obsession.

Although he did recover to play in the finals in Germany, he was clearly struggling for match fitness and England were eliminated in the quarter-finals.

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